NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — New Bedford City Councilor at Large Shane Burgo has placed a motion on Thursday night’s council agenda seeking to take up in committee discussions about creating a more formalized homeless encampment in the city.

The motion requests that the Special Committee on Affordable Housing and Homeless Affairs, which Burgo chairs, “review a local report requesting consideration and approval for authorized encampments as a short-term emergency tool, this tool is intended to be implemented with the goal of meeting local, state, and national initiatives/practices aimed at preventing and remedying homelessness.”

Burgo made a brief appearance on WBSM’s Barry Richard Show Tuesday afternoon to further explain the motion and his reasoning behind it.

“It’s a motion I plan to present Thursday in hopes the council will refer it to my committee to discuss further. It’s not something we plan to enact right away,” Burgo said.

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Burgo said the issue was brought to his attention by a group known as the New Bedford Outreach Workers Coalition, which had compiled a report Burgo plans to place on file with his committee.

“According to the 2023 Point in Time count, which aims to count the number of individuals experiencing homelessness within the city borders, there were 373 adults and children who were either sheltered or living on the streets,” he said. “Sixty-seven of those 373 are people who are identified as living on the street.”

Burgo mentioned the homeless encampments that have been seen under the Route 18 overpass and at memorial sites across the city, until officials come in and break up those encampments.

“So the reason why this, to me, was so important to bring up and discuss is at what point do we say to ourselves, if we’re unable to provide these individuals with necessary housing, at one point do we say, well you can’t sleep here and we have no housing for you, where do you go?” he said. “So I think this is worth the discussion.”

LISTEN: Shane Burgo with Barry Richard:

Burgo said he does endorse the idea of creating an encampment site.

“Of course no one wants to have ‘tent cities,’ no one wants to live outside, no one wants people to be congregating and living in tents, but at what point do we not provide somewhere a safe location where we can provide wraparound services and resources to these individuals and make sure they’re safe and protected, and they’re not somewhere like on a highway on Route 18 and other locations where they can harm others or be harmed themselves?” he said.

Burgo said what is happening now is that with multiple “rogue encampments” popping up in other places, it’s harder to provide services for the individuals within them.

“I think it’s better if we have an encampment that we control, that we facilitate,” he said. “If we can have a location that we monitor, and have for example health people there to monitor, if we have public safety officials there to monitor, right now we have encampments set up that we aren't able to monitor.”

Burgo said that one location that has been proposed, although “not guaranteed,” is an open field on Shawmut Avenue close to the airport, although he said he’s not yet sure if that proposed spot is owned by the City of New Bedford or not.

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He also said funding for the site and the services offered would come through the existing network of providers.

“How I envision it is, it’s resources we already have, the continuum of care resources we receive from federal funding, from nonprofits like PAACA,” he said. “There wouldn’t be any City funding necessarily that would be going to this.”

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