PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the Safe Rest Village on Southwest Naito Parkway is getting ready to open Friday, people close the matter told KOIN 6 News there are still disagreements between its stakeholders and the city.
Commissioner Dan Ryan has met with stakeholders multiple times recently after they withdrew their support for the village on May 6 over safety concerns.
Some stakeholders associated with the Safe Rest Village said there needs to be trust and collaboration when opening shelters like these next to schools. They say there is a history of mistrust of the city and county not following through with enforcing good neighborhood agreements.
“That’s the bottom line — enforcement and accountability,” said Stanley Penkin, president of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association.
Penkin has experience collaborating on setting rules for homeless shelters, as he did with the Harbor of Hope Navigation Center in Northwest Portland in recent years.
“We had numerous meetings … talking it through,” he said. “The plans for the Navigation Center were shared with us. We actually offered input, some of which made it a better facility. None of that happened here.”
Penkin referred to the Safe Rest Villages underway on Southwest Naito and on the Northwest side, which just last week stakeholders publicly withdrew their support for, after the city refused to meet their needs.
“We’re in crisis, so let’s work together and let’s figure this out,” he said. “But we can’t do it unless there’s a willingness to listen to what stakeholders would like to see.”
Neighborhood and school stakeholders are asking for three things:
- Basic background checks if a Safe Rest Village is within 500 feet of a school
- A strictly enforced 1,000-foot buffer zone to stop satellite camping or criminal activity
- A Safe Rest Village advisory board for oversight
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable,” Penkin said. “Even with regard to the most controversial part, the background checks, but we’re talking about the safety of kids and that has to be a priority.”
Penkin admits Ryan’s responsibility to deal with the homeless crisis is the toughest job in the city, but he fears that a reluctance to collaborate further divides the housed from the houseless.
“It’s part of the polarity we have in our entire country, right?” he said. “It feeds down to every level. We don’t need to be that way. We all know each other. We all care. We all love our city.”
Penkin believes Portlanders don’t want to be a part of the problem, they want to be a part of the solution.
Meanwhile, Thursday evening, following a final talk with Commission Dan Ryan, the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholders Group said: “We are feeling cautiously optimistic that our three primary requests, which will enhance the security and well-being of Village participants, children and neighbors, are being heard.”
Ryan’s office released a statement on the Safe Rest Village around 3:15 p.m. on Thursday.
“Understandably, community members and school leadership from the 2300 SW Naito Parkway Stakeholder Group have concerns regarding the SW Naito Queer Affinity Safe Rest Village. We heard that at the Town Hall on Tuesday night and in their direct outreach. We respect the diverse neighborhood stakeholders, school leaders, and the communities they serve, and we appreciate their willingness to engage in difficult conversations to help build this Village into a model of success.
Commissioner Ryan’s team is staying earnestly at the table with the 2300 SW Naito Parkway Stakeholder Group and working in partnership with the following members of the Streets to Stability team to ensure the continued success and safety of participants at the Queer Affinity Safe Rest Village as well as neighboring schools, businesses, and community residents:
- Nate Takara, Street Services Coordination Center
- Sergeant Matt Jacobson, PPB, Neighborhood Response Team
- Shannon Singleton, Joint Office of Homeless Services
- Skyler Brocker-Knapp, Mayor’s Office
- Andy Goebel, All Good NW
This team is fully confident the participants moving over to the QA Village do not pose concerns to the safety and security within and outside the village.
The group listed above is also committed to working toward solutions to the following requests:
- Develop a Community Safety Plan. In partnership with the Neighborhood Response Team and the Street Services Coordination Center, the City is committed to creating a School Safety Plan that meets the needs of Naito neighbors.
- Clearly define the intake and low-barrier screening process that ensures the safety and well-being of village participants and neighboring students and residents.
- Create advisory boards in neighborhoods where Villages are located. They will be developed through the Good Neighbor Agreement process at each location through community conversation and in concert with the Joint Office of Homeless Services to shape the structure and implementation of such boards.
The Safe Rest Village initiative is a commitment to be the “City that Works” for all Portlanders. We are committed to transparency and engagement in this process, and we will continue to share our progress addressing houselessness in Portland with our community.”