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Lewiston Fire Department Lt. David Gideon carries three of 13 puppies that were removed from a homeless camp off Lincoln Street in Lewiston on Wednesday morning.

LEWISTON — Police went into a homeless encampment along Lincoln Street on Wednesday, removing 13 puppies and ordering the occupants to leave the property by the end of the week.

In the thickly wooded area between Lincoln Street and the Promenade Mall, half a dozen tents were set up at the start of summer, with homeless people taking refuge there.

It turns out the property is owned by Franklin Property Trust.

Alan Johnson said he had been living there since June when he was forced to vacate an apartment on Bates Street because the landlord did not want pets in the building.

“I’m out here after paying rent and paying my bills for 14 years,” Johnson said. “The real story here is that the homeless have nowhere to go.”

Police, firefighters and an animal control officer seized 13 pit bull/Labrador retriever puppies and their mother, a pit bull. Police spokesman Lt. David St. Pierre said the animals were taken to a shelter to be cared for while Johnson works out his living arrangements.

“I suppose you could say we took them into protective custody,” St. Pierre said.

Johnson and others who had set up camp in the woods closer to the Promenade Mall in June had previously been ordered to move their tents. When that happened, they moved down over the hill onto what they believed was private property they had permission to be on.

But police said when they were called out to the area for reported campfires earlier in the week, they had no choice but to order the group off the property.

For Andrew Hensler, 26, it was just another challenge in the already desperate situation that is homelessness.

“I haven’t been homeless for long,” Hensler said. “It’s a sh***y situation. It’s not fun, believe me.”

Previously, Hensler had lived with Johnson on Bates Street. The pair have been surviving on food stamps and by living in their tents.

“It sucks,” Hensler said. “It really does.”

By late afternoon, Hensler and Johnson remained at their campsite with Diggs, the father of the puppies that were seized.

Police said the mother dog will be returned to Johnson once he has his living situation resolved. Johnson on Wednesday was working on that very matter, heading into the city to see if he could apply for any kind of assistance while he scrambles to find a new home by Friday.

“I’ve been homeless since June 1st,” Johnson said. “The harder I try to get out of it, it seems like the more frustrated I get, the harder the struggle seems.”

Andrew Hensler holds back Diggs as she panicks while Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout Jr removes 2 of her 13 week old puppies from a homeless encampment in Lewiston Wednesday morning.

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