Wheeler, Ryan contradict each other on Hazelnut Grove’s fate

Civic Affairs

Funding for the North Portland tiny home community may still be on the chopping block after all

The Hazelnut Grove camp sits on city-owned land in North Portland's Overlook neighborhood. (Lyndsey Hewitt, The Portland Tribune)_523010

The Hazelnut Grove camp sits on city-owned land in North Portland’s Overlook neighborhood. (Lyndsey Hewitt, The Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Confusion reigned at city hall late Thursday, Feb. 18, as Commissioner Dan Ryan and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler offered conflicting information on a long-running tiny home community’s fate.

Ryan first announced an apparent about-face on Wheeler’s behalf — with the commissioner writing in a statement to the Tribune that Wheeler intends to “provide services to Hazelnut Grove for another six months.”

Almost as soon as that news broke, Wheeler’s staff walked it back.

“I’m told six months is not a firm timeline,” mayoral spokesman Tim Becker said in a separate email to the Tribune as the after-office-hours uncertainty crested.

Ryan’s policy director, Mark Bond, scratched his head: “All I know is that six months is what the Mayor told Commissioner Ryan in a meeting this afternoon.”

The Tribune exclusively revealed on Feb. 17 that Wheeler planned to stop paying the $1,500 monthly that provides fencing, portable toilets and trash collection to the community as soon as March — though he suggested that Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty could pick up the tab.

Ryan, perhaps mistakenly, reported on Feb. 18 that Wheeler had a change of heart.

“Over the past two weeks, my office has worked extensively with both the Mayor and Commissioner Hardesty to find a solution for the situation at Hazelnut Grove. Today, we have made a critical breakthrough,” said Ryan, who serves as the commissioner in charge of the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services.

“I believe we need to create as many options as possible to provide stability for our houseless neighbors in this time of unprecedented crisis,” Ryan continued. “For this reason, I have been actively working with the Mayor, Chair Kafoury, and Commissioner Meieran to expand alternative shelter capacity. Moving forward, I will continue to explore ways in which we can collaborate in this important effort.”

Built at the end of a wooded slope in Portland’s Overlook neighborhood, Hazelnut Grove was established in 2015 but never officially permitted. Though plans to relocate the residents have been in the works for years, the community has yet to be uprooted.

Organizers for Hazelnut Grove tweeted, “Help, please. We would like to get off the ride,” as the situation remained unclear.

Wheeler has been directing money to the Grove via the Office of Management & Finance, which he oversees.

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