PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is expected to propose a plan near the end of this week to ban homeless camping in most areas of the city and move the campers to 3 “campuses” in different parts of the city.
KOIN 6 News learned the mayor has talked with city leaders and Multnomah County commissioners but has not gotten full support for the concept.
The plan, KOIN 6 News learned, is to set up 3 homeless “campuses” each able to accomodate about 500 people. Each will also be divided into smaller camps on whatever property these go. There are no firm details on exactly where these “campuses” would be, but likely there will be 2 on the east side of the city with one on the west side.
Some who have learned about the proposal, which is still being refined, said Wheeler wants the county to build and operate them.
Several Multnomah County commissioners, including Susheela Jayapal, are not on board with this plan.
“I don’t think it’s feasible, to begin with, regardless of whether or not it’s good policy on homelessness, which I also don’t think it is,” Jayapal said. “They have had trouble finding sites for much smaller Safe Rest Villages. I don’t see where such camps could be sited. I don’t see who would run them. We’re having trouble finding people to run our existing shelters let alone encampments of this size.”
Jayapal also said San Francisco opened a similar venue and “it cost $60,000 per person per year. Now for $60,000 per person we ought to be housing people.”
The 2 candidates running for Multnomah County chair, Jessica Vega Pederson and Sharon Meieran, also shared some skepticism for the plan.
“Just moving people from place to place is not actually a solution so if we don’t have the support system, if we don’t have shelter space set up, it’s really a moot point,” Vega Pederson said.
“I’m in favor of an ecosystem of shelter options which include a range of alternatives for people,” Meieran said.
The City of Portland is in a joint partnership with the county and the Joint Office of Homeless Services. The city is also now facing a lawsuit that claims disabled people can’t get by on city sidewalks with all the tents there and that the campers need to be gone.
The street camping actually started back in 2016 when then-Mayor Charlie Hales allowed it with sleeping bags and tarps, but no tents. But that seems like a very long time ago.
KOIN 6 News reached out for comment and more information from Mayor Wheeler’s office but has not yet heard back.