Rally Faults City Leaders for Failure to “Stop the Sweeps” Against the Homeless


Cheryl Harkins, Advocate with Homeless Voices for Justice & Homeless Advocacy for All.

A “Stop the Sweeps” is Set for Friday, Septeber 15, in front of POrtland City Hall.

The “Ideal Maine Band” Provided Ideal Music for the Rally,

One of the Many Sweeps Opposed to Portland’s Failure to “Stop the Sweeps”

A Sign Held by Bill Higgins, One of the Speakers, Calling for City Leaders to Commit a Safe Space to Encampments for the Homeless.

“Portland is a city that has given up on finding housing for the homeless,” said State Representative Grayson B. Lookner, of District # 113 in Portland.. “There is one place in Maine where you can get a free mail –  that’s at the Maine State Prison,” he told a crowd of several hundred people that erupted into a loud reaction that could be heard several blocks down Congress Street from where a rally – “Stop the Sweeps” was held late this afternoon.

Numerous diverse speakers mesmerized a crowd on the steps of city hall who appeared fixated on the stories of the homeless, former homeless and their advocates.

The brutal policies of the city toward the homeless were a focus of Cheryl Harkins. of Homeless Voices for Justice, when in an electrifying message she faulted city leaders for not granting an extension to the Fore River Encampment until “local organizations could further explore more humane and practical decisions than simply telling people who have been stuck outside …….they cannot camp due to necesssity because Portland cannot, or refuses to come up with a more humane and dignified solution.”

Harkins continued:  “Some people are outside during chemotherapy, some don’t survive and die alone in a tent because the system is inadequate. Some are victims of domestic violence.  They are literally hiding for their lives – waiting for a spot in the safehouse shelters that are usually full.”  Harkins asked city leaders:  “What is  your plan?”

She continued:  “There’s a hurricane or at least a tropical storm due to hit Portland tomorrow.  Portland government has not announced ANY plans to allow those outside a chance to escape pounding rains, winds and flying debris.  The library will be closed.”  Harkins said:  “Stop trying to hide the destitute.  Stop giving ridiculously overinflated figures regarding how many people outside love it so much they want to stay.  What exactly are you hiding with these constant inaccuracies?”

What is your plan she repeated.

“There is literally a storm coming.  This is not the time to sweep people.  We won’t arrest our way out of this situation.  “It’s all of our faults that people are living outside,” said Dani Lailberte, of Opportunity Alliance.

At the conclusion of the two hour rally, Bill Higgins asked the crowd to ask a homeless person what he/she needs – whether it be food, water or something else – and then go to WaMart or a drug store and fulfill that wish list for a small amount of your cash.

A bystander in the crowd said that there should be a seat on the city council for a homeless or former homeless person to be sure his/her voice is heard.

What is your plan, Mayor Snyder and City Manager West??  We are listening.

For more background information on the Rally this afternoon at city hall, please visit post dated September 12, 2023 herein.