PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced a five-pillar plan to ban unsanctioned camping and set up shelter options, 150 people have signed up to give testimony about the plan on Wednesday.

The main elements of the plan include:

  • Increasing affordable housing construction:

Reduce the 5-year average waiting lists to get into affordable housing by catalyzing the
construction of 20,000 units of housing by 2033. Key actions include identifying and
land-banking up to 400 publicly owned sites that are shovel-ready for development,
speeding permitting of nonprofit and private multifamily housing developments, and
requesting assistance from the Oregon Governor and State Legislature to increase
statewide funding and expand local options to fund affordable housing.

  • Enhancing access for the homeless to paid non-standard work

Work with partners to assess and explore a system to better structure gig and itinerant
work (non-standard work) so that the needs of workers are prioritized, and more people
can successfully participate in, benefit from, and advance in the labor market.

  • Connecting the homeless with mental health, addiction and recovery services

Change City’s outdoor camping protocols to better connect homeless individuals with
available sanitary, mental health, and substance abuse recovery services and banning
self-sited encampments with designated alternative locations (e.g., emergency shelter,
Safe Rest Villages, designated sanctioned campsites).

  • Making a diversion program for people experiencing homelessness

Request assistance from stakeholders, including the Multnomah County District
Attorney (“MCDA”) and other experts providing community-based homeless, mental
health and substance abuse recovery services, to create a services diversion program by
offering people cited for low level offenses more opportunities to address pending legal
issues and related collateral consequences outside of the criminal legal system.

  • Requesting help from county, metro, state, and federal partners

The president of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, Stanley Penkin, already submitted his written testimony to the mayor’s office –sharing his support to ban unsanctioned camping and establish sanctioned sites with necessary services.

“We are in a crisis, there’s no question about it,” Penkin said

He added “I know that there are those who will be opposed to that on the grounds that it’s criminalizing the homeless and so on. But I think it can be done in a very compassionate and sensitive way,” Penkin explained. “And I feel very strongly, as long as we have encampments on our streets, our city is just not able to come back. We have to create safe environments, safe sidewalks.”

However, not everybody is on board with banning camping.

Kat Mahoney is a leader at Sisters of the Road Café, a non-profit that works with people in homelessness and poverty. She supports elements of Mayor Wheeler’s package — like increasing affordable housing and combining mental health and addiction treatment. But she’s against sanctioned campsites.

“One of the problems with sanction campsites is that it actually doesn’t help the folks who are being put in those camps. What it actually does is it serves businesses and housed folks. It hides the problem; it doesn’t solve the problem,” Mahoney said. “It criminalizes homeless people in a sense that there’s that narrative that if there’s less homeless people on the street, there’s less crime…there’s no real correlation between that.”

While 150 people are signed up to testify at Wednesday’s 2 p.m. City Council meeting, it remains to be seen how many elements of Wheeler and Commissioner Dan Ryan’s plan will be passed as resolutions.