[Hpn] Marchers demand affordable rents;Portland Press Herald;Maine;10/19/01

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Fri, 19 Oct 2001 14:01:11 -0400


-------Forwarded article-------

Friday, October 19, 2001
Portland Press Herald <http://www.portland.com>
[Portland, Maine]
Local & State News section
Marchers demand affordable rents

--[Photo caption]
Staff photo

George Coleman marches with other low-income Portland residents in front of 
City Hall on Thursday in a rally he helped organize to raise awareness of 
the plight of the city's homeless.
--[End of photo caption]

Portland Press Herald Report

About 40 low-income Portlanders marched in front of City Hall Thursday 
morning chanting, carrying signs and demanding affordable housing.

"This is so everybody knows that they're not alone and they can come and 
speak," said George Coleman, who helped organize the rally. "We need to stop 
being invisible, and become visible."

Coleman and other low-income residents and advocates created a new activist 
group called Portland Organization to Win Economic Rights, or POWER. The 
group's members are mostly united around the need for more affordable rooms 
and apartments in Portland. Its leaders want Portland's housing shortage and 
climbing rents recognized as a city emergency so housing is built faster and 
rents are controlled at least temporarily.

"All that needs to happen is for the city to step in and say enough is 
enough," Coleman said. "What are we going to do until the housing gets 
built? Let's talk about putting a freeze on rents until that time."

City officials have been promoting new housing construction and are about to 
finalize a long-term plan for housing development in the city.

Dee Clarke said she shares a three-bedroom apartment with her two children. 
She works part-time but could never afford the $925 a month rent on her own. 
Vouchers from the federal Section 8 housing program cover about half the 

Like many others in Portland, she's afraid of losing her apartment. She 
knows she and her children could easily end up homeless and be forced to 
leave their community and schools. Portland's homeless shelters have filled 
to capacity in the past month.

"I'm always afraid (of losing the apartment). I don't complain about 
anything," Clarke said. "If I lose my apartment, I go to the family shelter 
and then I go to Lewiston." Homeless families are sometimes placed in 
apartments in Lewiston because of the lack of housing here.

Coleman said a lot of Portlanders are afraid.

"There are many working class people who have the same problems people in 
poverty have. They can't afford to get sick" or lose their jobs or 
apartments, he said. "This is tough for the whole community, not just a 
small part of it."

The event was as much a rally as a protest. Some members said city officials 
and private agencies are doing what they can to provide emergency shelter 
and services, while others said their rights are being ignored.

"It's a combination of angry, frustrated and tired," said Tom Andrews, who 
lives on disability benefits and is a long-time advocate for the poor.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: 


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Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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