Elected Officials should seize available shelter solutions
February 17, 2022
It’s tragic that it’s taken official reports of people dying on our streets to finally get local and state elected officials to realize the homeless status quo in our city and region is indefensible.
We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. As such, the response from elected officials at all levels of government – city, county, Metro, and state – must be big enough, bold enough and fast enough to save lives, restore hope and make a visible difference in our neighborhood.
There is now considerable debate about how to best end dangerous camping in public places by providing enough safe, sanitary emergency shelters for everyone who needs it. It’s about time. For months, we’ve been advocating to finally put an end to unsafe, unserved, uncontrolled street camping. Since December, more than 117,000 email messages have been delivered by Portlanders to elected officials urging stronger action on shelters, camping and housing. A recent poll of Portland-area voters indicates 83% support for requiring people currently living outside to sleep in shelters or in designated camping locations.
Rather than focus on impractical or improbable ideas, we urge elected officials to start with the solutions already readily available to them. Local officials should use properties they already control, keep promises they’ve already made and use resources already at their disposal. Taken together, these solutions will help thousands of people get the shelter and life-saving services they need and begin to eliminate dangerous, unsanctioned camping across the city.
POST OFFICE SHELTER AND SERVICES: Immediately build promised safe rest villages at the vacant post office site in downtown Portland. Work with nearby Old Town businesses and residents to implement a no-camping zone in the surrounding area. The city owns this empty 14-acre campus of buildings and parking lots. It is within the power of Mayor Ted Wheeler and the Portland City Council to make this happen.
EXPO CENTER SHELTER AND SERVICES: Immediately use the massive Expo Center buildings and parking lots in North Portland to provide shelter and services. Create promised safe rest villages and support and locations for people living in RVs and motorhomes. The Metro regional government owns this property. It is within the power of Metro President Lynn Peterson and the Metro Council to make this happen.
KEEP PROMISES OF 400 MORE SHELTER BEDS: Last Fall, with great fanfare, County Chair Deborah Kafoury announced a $40 million package of new initiatives to urgently address the homeless crisis. Specifically, she promised 400 additional shelter beds along with more outreach workers. Where are they? It is within the power of Commissioner Kafoury and Multnomah County commissioners to keep this promise and deliver these emergency beds.
EMERGENCY STATE FUNDING: The state legislature recently learned it had more than $700 million in additional dollars available to them. While the legislature is in session this month, we urge Governor Brown and every legislator who represents the city of Portland to unite behind a plan to provide emergency funding and citing authority to support these ideas and others. It is within the power of Governor Brown and state lawmakers from Portland to make this happen.
These are not permanent housing solutions. But they are a vital first step to providing people struggling to survive on the streets with the safety and stability they need.
Nothing will change without stronger leadership. We desperately need our elected leaders at all levels of government to begin working TOGETHER to solve these problems. Finger-pointing and blame-shifting won’t save a single life or rescue a single neighborhood. It starts at the top. We urge the Governor, the Mayor, the County Chair, and the Metro President to immediately begin meeting and taking action on these ideas and others to address this growing humanitarian crisis.
Accountability to specific metrics is a requirement if this is going to change. Oversight of where $ are spent is critical as every cent is needed if this situation is to change.
The homeless crisis is well beyond a tipping point. And the city just plays whack a mole.
Offering the choice of a shelter bed or a forced move and with seizure of belongings seems to be the only choice now.
Mental health and drugs are certainly part of the problem. But a permissive city leadership has turned Portland into a magnet for those not wanting to be a part of productive society and live off giveaways.
Leaders! Respond as if homeless crisis is an emergency.
Can we add the ideas to hire individuals to clean up our highways? It was very very sad to see the increasing volume of trash on the highways that are entering our rivers. When visiting other states, there is also trash on highways, but there were workers seen picking up trash on highways to tame the issue. Portland differs in this way. Have not seen a wide effort by the city to clean the trash – I do not encourage friends or family to visit – it is embarrassing/disgusting and this will cost Portland business in the long run.
We have the resources, the space and the funding. Let’s adopt the People for Portland locations and merge this with the Sam Adams proposal. End unsanctioned camping now.
budget is not an issue. leaders have millions to solve homelessness. mismanagement, incompetence and political posturing have directly caused the decay of our city. sentiments of compassion, humanity, etc have run their course and it’s time for a heavy hand to restore our safety – NOW. gangs and organized crime are RAMPANT – THIS CRISIS MUST BE ADDRESSED. NOW.
Some advocates seem to think if we can’t solve EVERY problem immediately, we shouldn’t try to solve ANY problem. This thinking is tearing apart our social fabric. Just start somewhere.
Some advocates seem to think if we can’t solve EVERY problem immediately, we shouldn’t try to solve ANY problem. This thinking is tearing apart our social fabric. Start somewhere! Start by creating temporary shelter + mental health services and ending unsafe, illegal camping.
Continuing to clean up after campers who then go to a new site is not a way to end camping in town. The substance use and mental illness in this community has to be addressed to start regaining a safe downtown.
Please implement safe camping areas at the Downtown post office and the Expo Center immediately and prohibit street camping. Our neighborhoods are no longer safe and unsupported outdoor camping is not and never has been safe for people experiencing homelessness. The garbage, needles and human feces I’ve seen in my and other neighborhoods is unacceptable.
These ideas are not new our elected officials are failures
Absolutely! How many “solutions” and excuses have we heard over the last few years. Studies are done, committees are formed, community meetings and every time a proposal is made there is a reason it can’t be done.
Portland can not recover until the homeless situation is dealt with. The homeless have gained control of our city. These are good, responsible solutions. We need to make the hard decisions and get it done.