PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler held a press conference on Friday, Oct. 21 to discuss upcoming plans to build new “campuses” to get the city’s growing houseless community into shelters and out of unsanctioned campsites.
KOIN 6 reported on the press event on Friday. Here are six key takeaways:
1. Wheeler proposes a ban on Portland’s unsanctioned homeless camps and wants to build camping sites to serve the homeless community
Next week, the Portland City Council will be voting on Wheeler’s proposal to ban self-sited, unsanctioned encampments. He announced a plan to build at least three camping sites that would help homeless people access the resources they need.
“We can better connect homeless Portlanders to state and county services by consolidating those critical services in a number of large-scale sanctioned sites,” he said.
He added that the new sites would hold between 100 and 125 people to start off.
2. There are a total of five resolutions being proposed
The resolutions are over the following issues: Affordable housing development; job access; connecting people with services and banning unsanctioned camping; creating a diversion program to remove or divert low-level offenses if services are sought; and the city requesting government partners to help in the effort.
Again, the resolutions will be formally proposed during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
3. Everyone is in agreement that the housing crisis is growing
In their statements, City Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty, Mingus Mapps, Carmen Rubio and Dan Ryan all acknowledged Portland’s worsening housing crisis.
“Our children and our families want a place to play in our parks. Our elders want to go on a safe stroll in their neighborhoods, and people relying on mobility aids require accessible walkways,” Ryan, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau, said.
He also referred to a recent poll from the Oregonian that revealed 94% of Portland-area voters find that homelessness is their biggest concern.
4. Although they do want people off of the streets, the mayor and commissioners want to conduct the homeless sweeps in a manner that shows compassion for the displaced people
Mayor Wheeler expressed concern for the Portlanders experiencing homelessness, and referred to the matter as “nothing short of a humanitarian crisis.”
“How we carry out any new approach with our houseless community will be critically important and make all of the difference in its effectiveness,” Rubio said. “And I plan to be a vocal and active participant in shaping those approaches to ensure that they’re reflective of and accountable to the values of respect, equity, dignity, service and compassion.”
5. Not all city commissioners are immediately on board with Wheeler’s plan — but they’re not opposed, either
The city commissioners see Portland’s housing crisis as one that they should take action on with urgency, but not all of them are fully in support of Wheeler’s plan.
Hardesty in particular said, “I am not here to endorse or oppose this plan at this moment but to express appreciation that there are multiple proposals on the table that have intriguing elements to them.”
Commissioner Rubio did not endorse or oppose the plan either. Commissioner Mapps, on the other hand, said he expects to vote yes on all of the mayor’s proposals in next week’s city council meeting.
Ryan was in support of Wheeler’s plan, but opinions from other officials and candidates are still trickling in.
6. When would this plan be implemented?
It has not yet been disclosed how quickly the proposed ban on homeless camps will take place, or when the new homeless ‘campuses’ will be built. Wheeler said this is dependent on the “partnerships” that the city is trying to develop.
“We will sequentially do this as we provide alternative locations, so it will be staged,” he said.