PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Community members and politicians are reacting after information leaked that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is planning to ban unsanctioned camping in the city.
The mayor’s plan would put a stop to sidewalk camping and instead regulate “campuses” of sanctioned campsites with 500 people per site, according to the Willamette Week.
The mayor’s office told KOIN 6 News they cannot disclose further details until they finish talking to all their partners.
In response, gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson said, “I applaud the mayor for taking this decisive action.”
Johnson supports the idea of banning unsanctioned camping in public explaining, “if there are services, sanitation, nutrition, the opportunity for enforcement – and all in one place instead of having these dispersed camp enclosures that are basically lawless — I’m all for it.”
This idea comes as the city faces a lawsuit for not complying with ADA policies by keeping sidewalks accessible for people with disabilities.
“I know that the litigation has put the city in a position where they’re taking us very seriously,” the plaintiff’s attorney, John DiLorenzo, said.
Now Portland residents on both sides of the river are reacting to the plan.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction. I think the devil’s in the details. There are a lot of questions, obviously,” said Doug Richards, who lives downtown.
Richards hopes the next governor will support Mayor Wheeler.
“We want to make sure that the state recognizes that Portland can’t shoulder this on their own. So, we need the state to help out,” Richards said.
Meanwhile, Rosemary Adamski, who lives in the Foster-Powell neighborhood, told KOIN 6 News “I want to hear that outdoor camping on streets and public rights of way be prohibited.”
Adamski lives in assisted living and uses her walker to get around. She said the tents and other obstructions along Powell Boulevard make it dangerous to get around. She is open to the mayor’s idea for now, but wants to see large indoor shelters down the line.
“For the interim? This is perfect, but they need social services and health care services,” Adamski said.
Lents resident Gillian Rose thinks if public officials can pull this off — it will changes people’s minds who continue to refuse the city and county homeless services.
“The people on the street are suffering. They are being enabled to continue a lifestyle that will really only lead in death,” Rose said. “Stop providing supplies. And yes, I do think some of them will be like, ‘you know what, the city isn’t for me anymore.’”
Rose recently founded the site Trash Sheep, to let people share how this crisis is impacting them.
With thousands of people sleeping on the streets, pressure for drastic action is mounting.
In response, Gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek told KOIN 6 News she spoke briefly with Mayor Wheeler about his plan saying “it’s about time Mayor Wheeler steps up to treat this like the crisis that it is. Here’s my message to the Mayor: do it right and do it with urgency.”
In a statement, gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan said “I spoke with Mayor Wheeler on Wednesday regarding his new plan to address homelessness in Portland. Location, security, and management of the new initiative are unknown at this time which leaves some major issues unanswered. But I am encouraged to see the city taking action.”
Drazan added “I look forward to working with Mayor Wheeler and local leaders as our state’s next governor to ensure homelessness is rare and temporary, reopen our sidewalks and public spaces, restore safety to our streets, and support Oregonians in need.”
Mayor Wheeler said in a statement:
“City Commissioner Dan Ryan and I want to complete our outreach to elected leaders who have key responsibilities related to the issues of affordable housing and homelessness before we finalize any proposals that will be announced next week. I am also working in-tandem with Mayors of other Oregon cities for a joint approach to the new state governor and state legislature.”