SANFORD — City officials are urging residents not to leave donations at homeless encampments near the mill district, and they warn that those who continue to do so may be cited for littering.

People instead should donate to agencies and charities that assist homeless residents, officials said.

People have been dropping off items at the homeless encampment in Sanford’s mill district, which is causing problems, officials say. Tammy Wells/Journal Tribune

“No contributions of personal and household items, such as toiletries, linens, furniture, etc., are currently being accepted,” City Manager Steve Buck said. “Please do not drop bedding, clothing or other items near the location of the encampment. These items contribute to clutter and unsanitary conditions for the people living there.”

Deputy Mayor Lucas Lanigan suggested that police post a notice notifying people of city littering laws.

“It seems like people are clearing their households. I’ve seen multiple bags down there,” Lanigan said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Police Chief Thomas Connolly said he realizes people mean well, but dropping off items at the encampments must stop.

“We have told people several times, and my officers have been instructed as of last week, to tell people not to drop stuff off at the campsites,” Connolly said.

”We are referring people to (York County Community Action Corporation) or another charitable group and tell them to earmark their donation for helping the homeless. While I understand that people believe they are doing a good thing, in reality their kindness would be better utilized if it was directed to a legitimate organization that can provide needed services. If we don’t stop this activity, we will end-up with mounds of property that will require city resources to get them removed,” he said.

Those who leave “stuff” at the campsites will be charged with littering, Connolly said. The civil violation carries a fine of $500 to $1,000.

Buck told councilors progress has been made at the encampment. A family who had been living in one of the camps was placed in housing last week, he said.

A resource center where the city’s homeless population can get medical attention and connect with an array of services was to open Friday morning on the grounds of the community action corporation. The Resource Hub will be staffed by an intake and navigation worker from the York County Shelter Program, two triage staff members from Nasson Health Care and outreach workers from the York County Community Action Corporation.

A coordinator will screen visitors to see whether they have current access to health care, Buck said. Those with access to care, and who have no untreated health issues, will meet with an outreach worker who can determine their eligibility for and interest in available housing options, including the emergency shelter, and other essential resources.

Those with no health care provider, or who have immediate health care needs, will be screened by the staff from Nasson Health Care and will be offered an appointment to see a medical or dental provider.

Information on substance use disorder treatment options and resources will also be available.

Sanford established a Homeless Task Force a month ago that includes city staff and area service providers as well as a team from the Sanford Police Department. Headed by Detective Eric Small, a certified recovery coach, the police team also includes four other officers.

The police team has been visiting the camps, checking on those who live there and doing what they can to encourage change. The team has assisted homeless people with securing and getting to medical appointments, following up, securing shelter, and more, such as finding footwear and helping people get identification cards. There have also been conversations about next steps.

While the mill district encampment is the most visible, there are others in the city as well, including at least one in Springvale.

Sanford’s camping homeless population has been pegged at about 40, though that figure does not include “couch surfers” who stay with various family and friends, or those who may be living in their vehicles.

Tammy Wells — 780-9016

[email protected]

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