BANGOR – A local transient is alive today thanks to some alert workers who heard his cries for help from inside a working trash truck.
The homeless man was trying to stay warm and climbed into a dumpster and was accidentally picked up with the trash Friday morning.
“It’s just tragic that someone was sleeping inside there and ended up being dumped in the truck,” said Rindy Fogler, the services manager at Bangor Public Health and Community Services.
The trash receptacle is located behind Bangor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Texas Avenue. After the Casella trash truck left Texas Avenue, it reportedly made three other stops before going to Westgate Manor on Union Street. Westgate employees heard cries coming from the truck, according to a Bangor Fire Department Facebook post.
“They heard screaming and they were able to get him out,” said Ann Sweeney of Hope for Homeless.
Firefighters from several stations responded to Westgate.
“They were able to get that individual out, and at this point they’ve been taken to the hospital,” said Assistant Chief Greg Hodge of Bangor Fire Department.
Friends of the homeless man told WVII Channel 7/WFVX Fox 22 that he suffered a broken leg when he and the trash in the back of the truck was compacted.
“More than anything, this says that the level of homelessness in the city has maxed out the amount of capacity of the services we have here,” Fogler said. “Both shelters are generally turning people away every night.”
“In this case, I think it’s just an example of people finding any little nook and cranny they can to get into, to get out of the elements,” she added later.
The temperature in Bangor Thursday night reached down to -3 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
“Bangor … is a nice town, but it has a homelessness problem,” Sweeney said. “Some people don’t want to go to the shelter, some people can’t go to the shelter for different reasons. Mental health issues is a serious problem, drug abuse, alcohol abuse.”
A custodian at the rehab found the man’s backpack and a bag of returnables near the dumpster, shortly after the trash was removed.
“The gentleman’s bag is still here … He may come back so we’ll save it for him,” said Phil Bennett, an administrator for Bangor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Some folks are calling the Westgate employees heroes, while others say the incident just puts a spotlight on the city’s homelessness problem.