PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Advocates for the poor and homeless continued their protest Tuesday against the plan to move the state's DHHS office out of downtown Portland.
Since the plan was announced last month, the city, Democratic legislators and low income groups have complained steadily that the move will hurt people who need DHHS services. The move would shift the DHHS office from its current location in Portland's Bayside area to a site in South Portland neat the airport, reported to be about four miles by bus from the current location.
The morning protest was organized by the group called Homeless Voices for justice, with the help of the Preble Street shelter. For the past four years the group has delivered a Christmas Wish to state political leaders, and said this year their wish is all about keeping the Portland DHHS office open. They signed giant Christmas cards to give to Governor LePage and DHHS Commissioner Mayhew.
Portland's Mayor Michael Brennan said he isn't ready to give up the fight to keep the office in Portland, telling NEWS CENTER, "Governor LePage has consistently said he doesn't care where the location is," just that the move save the state money. Brennan said he will continue trying to pressure Finance Commissioner Millett and DHHS Commissioner Mayhew to change their minds.
Millett's office declined comment today, saying one of the losing bidders on the project has appealed, and the Attorney General has told the agency not to comment until a 30-day appeal window has closed.
A DHHS spokesman says the Portland office serves about 61,000 clients, a third of them in Portland. And he says "nearly 80%" of clients visit the office fewer than three times per year.