Portland neighborhood group pushes for changes in Bayside

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PORTLAND — The wider picture of Bayside neighborhood improvements and working with social service agencies continued to be the focus of a group of Bayside neighbors and city officials as they met for a second time Monday.

About 15 people sat on the terrace at Back Bay Tower to discuss where new containers to collect needles and other sharps could be placed, the effectiveness of street sweeping in the neighborhood and how to get greater enforcement of loitering and public drinking violations.

Parris Street resident Laura Cannon suggested more outreach to people staying at the Oxford Street Shelter or using services at Preble Street is needed on “how to be a good short-term resident of the neighborhood.”

“It is great to say ‘be a good neighbor,’ but I am looking for a deeper level of connection,” she said.

Led by Oxford Street Director Rob Parritt, the biggest goal for the group is to draft and implement a community shelter plan, even as the possibility of shelter relocation grows.

The plan is still very much a draft, but Parritt said Monday he hopes it will be a blueprint for all shelters that may open in the city. At this point, elements include getting neighborhood input by having a shelter manager host community forums, attending neighborhood association meetings, providing a wider range of data on shelter guests without fully identifying them, and reviewing crime statistics with community policing staff.

Some attending the meeting, including Steve Hirshon of the BNA, have been focusing on the issues of drug and alcohol use, littering, loitering and disorderly conduct for years.

Adria Moynihan Rusk, who has just opened artist studios on Elm Street, is now confronting some quality of life issues in the neighborhood for the first time, and wanted to know who to call and where to turn, she said.

The city is moving forward with a tab on its website outlining some community resources, Parritt said. Also, city police are now working overtime shifts from 5-9 p.m. to add a second foot patrol in Bayside.

Parritt and Bayside Neighborhood Association Board member Deborah Van Hoewyk said many of the problems are not caused by guests and clients at Oxford Street or Preble Street, but by those drawn to the neighborhood to prey on them.

“The point should be that Bayside is only welcoming to the people who need and are getting the services,” Van Hoewyk said.

The meeting was also attended by Kelly Crotty, who coordinates community policing at the 26 Portland St. station. Crotty said she is working with the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office on stronger prosecution for charges stemming from neighborhood arrests.

At the same time, the station has enlisted help from about 10 Preble Street clients for an hour-long cleanup each Wednesday afternoon.

Parritt said moving the shelter to a site open 24 hours and having needed services for its guests will not only better protect them because of improved security, it will also remove the impetus for others coming into Bayside.

A key for improvements is maintaining pressure on the city, Parritt said. People unhappy with the police response to public drinking or drug use should call Assistant Police Chief Vern Malloch directly, he said. Anyone unhappy with garbage collection or other public works issues should call Public Works Director Chris Branch.

The group will continue to meet monthly to compose the community shelter plan and review other neighborhood issues. The next date was not set Monday, but the meeting will be open to the public.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland’s Oxford Street Shelter may not remain in Bayside, but a community shelter plan is being written to outline how it can better integrate into the neighborhood.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.