PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As homelessness continues to sweep the metro area, Portland-based advocacy groups called on city leaders to invest in expanding affordable housing.

Advocates from Human Solutions, Urban League and Street Roots discussed homelessness Thursday morning, with the goal of housing 3,000 people by the end of the year.

According to the organizations, the city is simply moving people around the metro area and threatening criminalization, which has proved to be ineffective and costly. Along with this, advocates say sweeps increase “racial disparities, intensifies trauma, and does not add a single unit of housing.”

“What frightens me is the whole militaristic aspect of it, treating people like refugees, basically for being poor,” said Street Roots vendor George McCarthy. “You feel like your country has given up on you. We can absolutely do better than this.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced a new emergency declaration that authorizes the creation of the Street Services Coordination Center. He said the center will be responsible for quickly getting offers of shelter, transportation and services to people living on the streets in Portland. 

Despite Wheeler’s order to address homelessness, the advocacy groups called on Portland to act with more of a “sense of urgency” in attempting to house 3,000 people by next December.

“We can not continue to accept bans, sweeps or enforced relocation, which only increases racial disparity, intensify trauma, cost millions and do not add a single unit of housing,” said Candace Avalos, a board member of Street Roots.

The organizations detailed three solutions to accomplish their goal.

Advocates suggest using existing properties, such as vacant apartment units and homes. Further, advocates suggest nonprofits acquire hotels, motels and other large buildings to use as “ready-now” affordable housing.

Lastly, the organizations say the screening process should be reviewed to ensure affordable housing is accessible to those in need.

Julia Delgado, Vice President of the Urban League of Portland, implored property owners committed to being a part of the solution by signing a pledge at 3000challengepdx.org, which involves 17 organizations at this time.

“We know that there are members of our community that will want to be a part of the solution, and this will build an interest list that will show our elected leaders that the community is open to solutions to end homelessness, not hide it,” Delgado said.

The full press conference can be viewed in the video player below.