It's no secret that Bangor has been working, for what seems like the better part of a decade, to solve a major issue surrounding finding affordable homes for an ever-growing unhoused population in the City.

If you've driven through the area of Hammond Street, Union Street, Center Street, or Main Street on any given evening recently, you've likely seen for yourself that folks are sleeping anywhere they can; sidewalks, doorsteps, and alleyways.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

A group of unhoused folks in a makeshift campsite along the Penobscot River were recently moved out of that area. This seemed to lead those with nowhere else to go farther into the residential areas of Bangor.

Knowing of the recent displacement, I wasn't necessarily surprised to see a couple camping out on the edge of my backyard last Friday morning. I don't live too far away from the Downtown area, and I noticed them very early when I woke up to get ready for work. While they were on the property without permission, they did not seem to be bothering anyone, so rather than call the police, I touched base with a neighbor from the adjoining property, and we both quietly kept tabs on them until they made their way out of the yard and on to their next destination.

The space they had been sleeping in is a place where my kids, and children in the neighborhood often play. As a precaution, before we allowed any kids to go running around that area, we went down and surveyed it to make sure nothing had been left behind.

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Sadly, items had been left behind, and they were items I was not sure what to do with or how to dispose of.

A small blanket was lying on the ground where the couple had been seen sleeping. There were also some discarded, used syringes and caps (not capped syringes, mind you, but caps in one spot, needles in another). Sadly, we have had used syringes left in the roadway or sidewalk of our street a few times before. Since that's deemed public space, we've usually just called the cops in those situations, and someone has come by and removed them.

Syringe1, Cori Skall
Syringe1, Cori Skall

The other things the couple left behind were an adult novelty toy and a bag of human waste.

Since this was often occupied by multiple local children, I had obvious concerns that the items that were left behind were properly disposed of and cleared as quickly as possible. Since we had called the authorities in the past, that's where I started.

I called the Bangor Police Department's non-emergency number. I was told that unless the people were still there, or causing an obvious issue, they would not be able to do much about what they had left behind, especially where this was a private residence.

Instead, they referred me to an organization called the Health Equity Alliance, which according to the Administrative and Communications Manager with the City of Bangor, David Warren, would help clean up the syringes, at least.

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"The City has a partnership with the Health Equity Alliance to gather discarded syringes. People can email HEAL at to request that needles be picked up. HEAL doesn't collect discarded syringes on the weekends. Pickups occur Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. "

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Warren says there's another option property owners can consider.

"Also keep in mind that the Police Department has the Bangor Community Action Team (BCAT). There are four members of BCAT who respond to a variety of calls, including unhoused folks who may be trespassing, littering, in need of services, etc. A person can call police dispatch and request that BCAT personnel respond to a nonemergency/nonviolent situation."

In our case, we ended up collectively, as a group of neighborhood parents, cleaning up the mess. Luckily one parent had some gloves and a sharps container. And the other stuff all went into the trash.

But it was a good learning experience as to what resources there are for folks in the City, should they find themselves in a similar situation.

While I am most disappointed that the very obvious signs that kids played in the area (sleds, balls, toys) didn't deter people from leaving potentially dangerous things behind, at least now I know what to do and who to call should something like this ever happen again.

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