That “sensational” story about bussing homeless people out of Bangor


November 13’s local paper, front page, above the fold:

Bangor is buying bus tickets to warmer states for people with no roof over their heads

The pull quote:

“Those of you who can’t get into housing, you’ll really need to start thinking about a warm-weather state,” Betters told the three men. “We can’t allow you to be on the streets of Bangor in the winter and freeze.”

That’s Wade Betters of the Bangor PD.

The official pushback, from a city councilor on Twitter:

And in a sense, she’s right – the article is carefully curated. It focuses on a homeless man who has an opportunity for housing in another state and just needs a ride to the bus station (or so he says). This is followed by other carefully curated examples of homeless people from away who don’t really belong here (I’m paraphrasing), then back to the first guy and an elaboration on his heavy drinking.

I don’t know if that was Betters’ idea or not, but it seems like part of his job. He’s the PD’s public information officer, after all, in addition to leading the PD’s public efforts to combat homelessness (he’s the “outreach coordinator for our un-sheltered population,” as the PD put it.)

And I know why Schaefer felt the need to push back, too, to avoid any possible suggestion that the city was doing any of this:

People are routinely sent thousands of miles away after only a cursory check by authorities to establish they have a suitable place to stay once they get there. Some said they feel pressured into taking tickets, and others described ending up on the streets within weeks of their arrival.

In case you were wondering why I expressed a little doubt about whether the guy Betters drove to the bus station really had an apartment lined up in Connecticut, this is why. Look at the incentives. From the city’s perspective, if he winds up on the streets of New Haven next month, that’s New Haven’s problem. And from the homeless guy’s perspective, an armed representative of the city’s dominant gang is giving him a choice: get out of town, or take his chances on what else they might do to get him off the streets.

Let’s see that pull quote again:

“Those of you who can’t get into housing, you’ll really need to start thinking about a warm-weather state,” Betters told the three men. “We can’t allow you to be on the streets of Bangor in the winter and freeze.”

The line about dangerous freezing cold temperature sounds familiar, too, because the state of New York used it a few years ago to justify its round-up-the-homeless-against-their-will scheme.

 

The next day’s front-page story was about the diversity of Bangor’s new city council (TLDR: “hired more women rulers”). The reporter who’d followed Betters around went on to echo that sentiment the next week.

It’s too early to say for sure – as far as I can tell, the only thing Betters has done publicly since then re: homelessness is encourage CBS viewers to report panhandlers – but I suspect that this “sensational” article will have no effect whatsoever on local politics or City Hall’s generally cozy relationship with the BDN. Why would it? The guy had several bottles of alcohol. And that other guy was only homeless in Bangor because he’d lost his job as a carnie. The consensus of respectable society will be: put them on a bus.

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