PORTLAND PRESS HERALD DARKROOM
Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Stephanie Scherer picks up litter on Portland Street while an intoxicated man sleeps on the sidewalk at 10:15 a.m. More than a dozen people participated in Community Clean Up! on Sunday, April 22, which was organized by the Bayside Neighborhood Association and the city. Scherer, 38, has lived on Hanover Street for three years and says the conditions near Preble Street Resource Center and Oxford Street Shelter have been getting worse. The area is prone to illicit drug use, drug deals, public intoxication and indecency. Scherer recently spent "a significant amount of money" to rebuild her deck and install a gate to prevent people from sleeping on it. "I knew what I was getting into when I moved in, but the opiates have become a scary [expletive] thing."

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Spectators gather at the intersection of Preble and Oxford streets where two men are fighting in the street adjacent to Preble Street Resource Center.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    A man sleeps in the doorway of 23 Portland St., two doors down from the Preble Street Resource Center. The address is part of 19 Portland St. – a flatiron-style building that was recently purchased by Maine-based T International Realty. Josh Soley, the spokesperson for the developer, said the group is "looking to buy everything possible in the area," including the resource center, which is not for sale. "This area is going to be the future of Portland real estate," Soley said.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    A man who declined to speak with the photographer teeters unsteadily on his feet in the middle of the road near Oxford Street Shelter, left. The pose is often associated with users of "spice" – a synthetic drug that resembles marijuana but smells like burning plastic when smoked.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    A woman is arrested on Oxford Street, near the intersection with Cedar Street, after throwing a can of beer at an officer, according to witnesses. Her male companion had been arrested moments earlier on a charge of trespassing at the Oxford Street Shelter. Less than a block to the east, in an unrelated incident, emergency workers were simultaneously dealing with a woman who was having a seizure in the middle of Oxford Street, according to shelter security guard Kevin Lee. In the past decade, police services have increased 71 percent in Bayside, according to Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, even though it accounts for only 1 percent of the city's landmass and 5 percent of its population. Service calls for the rest of the peninsula remained relatively flat, he said.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    A tourniquet flies off the arm of a 28-year-old man who just injected heroin. The man, who didn't want his face photographed and asked to be identified only as Ed, was sitting in a tight space between a retaining wall and a shipping container near Oxford Street Shelter. Ed said his addiction began on the job as a commercial fisherman, because the industry pays well and the work is physically taxing. "You have so much money and your body is in so much pain from fishing. Plus, everybody around you is using," he said.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Bayside resident Sarah Michniewicz peers through a window in her Cedar Street home for a portrait. Michniewicz, whose property has been the site of public fornication, defecation and drug use, has pushed the city to clean up the neighborhood. Her house is equipped with security cameras and motion-activated lights, as seen under the eave of her bay window. "I’m uncomfortable in my own home and worried about what’s happening there when I’m away. I’m worried for my neighbors and the few friends who still visit. I’m worried for the people languishing in this vortex of despair, looking for help or trying to recover in an environment practically guaranteed to drag them back down," she said. "I’m worried for Portland.”

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Self-described drifter Rodney Yancey drinks beer in a parking lot off Cedar Street, about half a block from Oxford Street Shelter, moments before being asked to leave by a shelter security guard. Yancey, a native New Yorker who was raised in New Mexico and has lived in Mexico and Canada, said he has been in Portland for two months and likes the city. "I want to grow roots here," he said. Other cities can be tough on their homeless population, but Portland is different, he said. "It's extremely laid-back." In recent years, at least two-thirds of people seeking emergency shelter at city sites have come from outside Portland.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    A man sleeps in a parking lot near Oxford Street Shelter at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    “I used to know every guest that stayed with us on a first-name basis,” said Oxford Street Shelter Director Rob Parritt, shown in the shelter's second-floor women's dorm. “We’re just seeing a lot of folks we don’t know.” The shelter began with 20 beds, but has been expanded to accommodate 154 people on thin mats. Facing pressure from Bayside residents and real estate developers, the city is planning eventually to relocate the shelter to an as-yet undetermined part of Portland. In the meantime, the shelter has seen an increase in people using harder drugs and an increase in homelessness.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Oxford Street Shelter security guard Kevin Lee scans the courtyard at the shelter. In the evening, after dinner is served at the nearby Preble Resource Center, homeless people begin queuing at the shelter door to wait for beds to open up for the night. This is also the time when incidents of criminal trespassing, drug use and indecent behavior peak in the surrounding neighborhood. Lee and other security guards used to work almost exclusively inside the shelter, but began expanding their presence outward last fall.

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    Oxford Street Shelter security guard Leandre Habonimana scans private property near Cedar Street for discarded syringes. Habonimana and two other shelter security guards patrol the neighboring blocks every hour or so in an effort to tamp down on illegal behavior and properly dispose of needles.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    "Trick," 47, who asked not to be identified by his real name, was recently evicted from an apartment in Westbrook. He receives methadone, but uses heroin occasionally, and said the Bayside shelters can be a terrible place for recovering addicts who lose their housing. "When you're down here, there's no way to get away from drugs. They're everywhere here. This is one-stop shopping. Ask for anything. You can find it here." Trick said the city needs to do more to help people with drug recovery, move the shelter to the outskirts of town and clean up the neighborhood. "I feel bad for the people who live down here. Their property values must be (expletive)."

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Trick, left, and friend James Osbourn check a syringe full of heroin in the laundry room of a Cedar Street apartment building. The room is a hot spot for heroin users, many of whom do not live in the building. Osbourn said police take a hands-off approach to drug use throughout the neighborhood, even in plain sight. "This is a high-free zone," he said. "You can get high down here without anyone giving you a hard time." Trick said the informal zone extends along Portland and Oxford streets roughly from Forest Avenue to Myrtle Street.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Trick injects heroin into his left leg. A few minutes earlier, Trick had traded a cellphone for a one-quarter gram of the brown powder, which sells for $40, during an open-air drug deal outside the soup kitchen at Preble Street Resource Center. Trick, whose girlfriend is in jail, said he hopes to get clean by the time she gets out in a few months so they can start a new, drug-free life. “I want to live with a white picket fence," he said.

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    James Osbourn, right, moistens a needle with saliva before injecting heroin into his leg. Trick used the same needle to inject himself just moments earlier. Trick said the two get regular testing for HIV and are both negative.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Emergency workers remove a patient from the Oxford Street Shelter who had overdosed on heroin. The patient was revived with Narcan. Shelter Director Rob Parritt said overdoses occur in the shelter about once a week. Similarly, at Preble Street Resource Center, staff responded on average, to one overdose every 8 days and saved 40 lives, according to 2017 data. The center installed motion-detector lights in bathrooms and removed the bottom half of doors so staff could more quickly detect overdoses. Ed, the former commercial fisherman, said, "It's a well-known fact that people are doing drugs all day in the bathrooms.”

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    John Lambert discusses a skin ailment with Mary Beth Sullivan, an outreach worker for the city. Sullivan spends her time walking the areas around Oxford and Preble streets, Monument Square, City Hall and elsewhere. When she encounters homeless or intoxicated people, she encourages them to seek services. Preble Street Resource Center, background, serves about 400 people per day.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    A homeless man who wouldn't give his name writes the word "chaos" on a piece of cardboard with an ornate and artistic flourish outside the Oxford Street Shelter while he waits for a bed to open up for the evening. The wait can be boring, he said, and doing artwork helps pass the time. He uses the same artistic techniques on placards he uses for panhandling, often "flying a sign" on Franklin Street. The man said he traveled to Portland from New York, but "got stuck here in September." He hopes to travel to Florida next – one of eight U.S. states he's never visited – where he has a friend who has offered him work.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Heidi Stevens, 44, an opiate addict, said she has been sober for six months and credits the Oxford Street Shelter for her strides. "They have given me so much," she said. "They've given me the opportunity to be in recovery."

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    Corey Light handles an injured pigeon he caught on Oxford Street. Light, who does not stay at the nearby Oxford Street Shelter, comes to the area to hang out. He later released the bird a block away on a stretch of lawn, safe from traffic and the ever-present crowds at the shelter.

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    Preble Street – Neighborhood in Distress - Staff photo by Ben McCanna | of | Share this photo

    People gather on Oxford Street outside the Preble Street Resource Center, right, and Oxford Street Shelter, the white building several blocks away on the left. Residents say blocks surrounding the two facilities can become impassable when large groups of unruly people clog the throughways.

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    Police respond to a woman whose head was injured when she was pushed to the pavement on Oxford Street.

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