[Hpn] Portland City Is Protesting Court Ordered Stay At Homeless Shelter

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Wed, 15 Jun 2005 08:08:30 -0400

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

City protests court-ordered stay at shelter

By DAVID HENCH, Portland Press Herald Writer

Portland officials are criticizing York County Superior Court for releasing
a Biddeford man on bail on the condition that he stay at Portland's Oxford
Street Shelter.
Wayne Fisher, 32, had been at the shelter for a week when he was warned that
he might have to leave for becoming aggressive toward a woman there Monday
Fisher pulled out court documents saying he couldn't be kicked out because
the court had ordered him to be there after releasing him on charges of
criminal threatening and probation violation, said Gerald Cayer, director of
Portland's Department of Health and Human Services.
"The Oxford Street Shelter is a short-term emergency shelter. We don't have
the capacity to address the needs this person might bring," Cayer said.
"There's a good network of homeless services in York County right down the
street from the York County Courthouse."
Cayer has criticized officials from other institutions and agencies in the
past for sending people to Portland's emergency shelter.
Recent examples include a man who was discharged from a psychiatric hospital
in New Hampshire, and undocumented workers from Central America who had been
arrested by federal authorities.
Cayer says agencies send people there often, although shelter officials
seldom become aware of it.
Fisher's lawyer, Paul Letourneau, said his client suffers from mental
illness and alcoholism, and would have deteriorated rapidly if he had
remained in the York County Jail, where he had been since December.
Judge G. Arthur Brennan, together with Fisher, prosecutors and a state
caseworker, determined that the best chance for Fisher to succeed was away
from his old haunts in Biddeford, where he could find work as a day laborer,
have a safe place to spend the night and be close to state services,
Letourneau said.
Portland was the logical place, he said.
"Where could we find a safe place quickly?" said Letourneau. "You can't just
release an individual with mental health issues who is homeless and say
'survival of the fittest, good luck, Wayne.' "
Letourneau said York County was not trying to save money or redirect problem
cases to another jurisdiction. He commended the judge for being
conscientious and creative.
The arrangement was to last only until the state could find Fisher a spot in
a suitable treatment program, and no more than 28 days, Letourneau said.
Fisher's paperwork lists a Biddeford mailing address, which Letourneau said
is probably Fisher's parents' address.
They are elderly and frail, and though they have tried to be supportive,
they are incapable of coping with his mental illness and alcoholism,
Letourneau said.
Cayer said Tuesday that there needs to be more communication before someone
like a judge determines that Portland's shelter is an appropriate housing
"This implies there's an expectation that the shelter will serve almost as
transitional housing or a halfway house option, and it is not that," he
For now, Fisher remains at the shelter. But, Cayer said, if he acts out,
staff members will tell him to leave, even if that means he will be in
violation of his bail conditions.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Copyright  Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.