PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Criticism continues to come in over a memo released last Friday, detailing a drastic plan to address Portland’s homeless crisis.
The memo was written by Former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, who is now the director of strategic innovations for the current mayor, Ted Wheeler. The plan immediately drew criticism from city commissioners Carmen Rubio and Jo Ann Hardesty, but it also pointed out how many think the city’s current actions to address the crisis have failed.
“I have not seen the memo, but I can assure you that it is, while it’s been descried as an idea or a concept it is not something that would not be supported by at least three members of council, including myself, Commissioner Dan Ryan and Commissioner Hardesty. They’re both on record as not supporting it as well,” Rubio told KOIN 6 News.
Adams’ plan includes the creation of three shelters either on city land or private land claimed by eminent domain that would each shelter about 1,000 people and be staffed by National Guard members and social work graduate students from Portland State University.
However, PSU School of Social Work Dean and Professor Jose Coll released a statement on Monday saying he was surprised and deeply disappointed to read about the plan.
“This proposal contravenes social work values and is not being considered by the SSW,” Coll said. The school was not consulted about this plan, and we with PSU Government relations are handling this matter.”
The memo says the city received 78,573 houselessness-related complaints and requests for services relating to 250 observed active encampments in 2021. It also points out that Oregon ranks No. 2 in the nation for addiction rates and last in access to treatment, along with the fact that 75% of Portlanders recently surveyed said say the city has been ineffective at reducing homelessness.
In addition to the proposed shelters, Adams recommended Governor Kate Brown, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Mayor Wheeler jointly make a FEMA disaster request to declare homelessness a federal emergency eligible for federal funds.
Gov. Brown’s office confirmed she is not considering the city’s draft proposal, saying there are “a number of unanswered legal, logistical and financial questions.”
Meanwhile, Wheeler’s office issued a statement saying, “Allowing for dangerous, squalid living conditions is not how we treat our houseless community with compassion and empathy. I directed my team to leave no stone unturned in finding a solution that will address this problem in an urgent and meaningful way–and that is exactly what they have been doing. The current solutions do not match the scale of our problem.”
Adams nor Kafoury has responded to KOIN 6 News’ requests for comment as of Monday afternoon.
The memo states the project, which would aim to start in June 2022 over the next three years, would “end the need for unsanctioned houseless camps in Portland.”
Read the full memo here.