PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Part of Mayor Wheeler’s proposed ban on homeless camping and plan to build “campuses” to house homeless individuals, also includes getting the governor and county leaders involved.
Part of the mayor’s plan includes help from the governor’s office.
“I need the governor-elect to ask the outgoing governor to immediately declare an emergency,” Wheeler said during Friday’s press event — explaining the order would help bring resources together to build shelters before winter and to meet his affordable housing goal.
Democratic candidate Tina Kotek told KOIN 6 News she asked Governor Brown to declare an emergency three years ago and plans to do so herself if elected.
However, Kotek adds “the city keeps saying what they’re going to do, but not enough has actually happened. They need to follow through, and they should start by picking up the trash immediately.”
Unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson agrees on the state of emergency and pressures Portland leaders saying, “I am glad to see Mayor Wheeler taking action. It’s long overdue…the mayor and City Council need to back up their words with actions and results to move people safely off the streets.”
Drazan told Eye on Northwest Politics she would declare an emergency as well.
“The homelessness state of emergency allows me to set aside rules and regulation and direct agencies to make addressing this challenge a priority,” Drazan said.
Wheeler also called on the next Multnomah County Chair to partner with Portland on enforcing the camping ban, creating sanctioned camping sites and providing services.
Multnomah County Chair Candidate Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson says she shares the mayor’s urgency and “commits to partnering with the city toward the goal of ending unsanctioned camping and ensuring everyone has a safe place to sleep.”
Vega Pederson adds there is more work to do to open RV safe park sites and cracking down on chop shops and “open drug markets.”
The other candidate, Commissioner Sharon Meieran says the County and Joint Office of Homeless Services has not done enough to work with the city in sheltering people in the first place. Instead, she says the County has given her excuses.
“I want to be a true partner because we need to be in this together and I believe the city is committed, I believe the mayor is committed and I believe, like I said, the other commissioners are committed,” Meieran said.
Both Meieran and Vega Pederson say more details are needed from the Mayor’s Office before determining exactly how Multnomah County will partner with the City.
Wheeler also says Portland has 80% of Metro’s homeless population, but does not receive that proportion of the funding, so he’s calling on Metro to re-think how that money is allocated.
“Mayor Wheeler is right that mental health, drug addiction and affordable housing services are under-funded in the Portland region. The pie is too small,” said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. “If we truly want to act with urgency, rather than pitting different parts of the region against each other by threatening to move funds, we should be focused on doubling down on the work that just started and is quickly showing results.”
Part of Wheeler’s plan calls on diversion programs to services by Multnomah County District Attorney for people accused of low-level offenses. Schmidt says his office will prosecute people “preying upon campers and nearby residents” while supporting Wheeler’s proposal.
“I commend the City’s willingness to partner with the justice system to reduce barriers to housing, employment, and education while holding criminal offenders accountable. I look forward [to] learning more about this proposal and the opportunity for collaboration that follows.” Schmidt said in a statement.