PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Some Portland residents are speaking out against possible plans to loosen city code around what areas can host temporary homeless shelters and organized encampments.
Portland City Council has been mulling whether to wave zoning restrictions to make it easier to open up shelters for unhoused individuals anywhere in town. In some temporary cases, this would include areas around parks and open spaces.
But some worry that allowing individuals to camp around parks and open spaces would add to the city’s sanitation and safety issues. Several critics spoke out against the zoning change on Sunday.
“We’re pretty outraged that our city and county officials have made a decision that in order for us to help this homeless epidemic we need to surrender our parks,” said Southeast Portland resident Angela Todd. “And, we would like them to come together and propose better solutions for people who are out on the street.”
Todd is co-chair of The Coalition to Save Portland, a “Political Action Committee fed up with the policies of appeasement that allow our [city’s] livability to deteriorate,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
The group was also involved in a report that falsely accused Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty of rear-ending a car and driving away.
Todd said she is speaking as a concerned resident, not on behalf of the group.
Last week, Portland City Council proposed adding an amendment to the ordinance to clarify parks, golf courses and most open spaces would not be intended sites for temporary shelters, the Oregonian reported Wednesday. Associated parking lots however could still be used.
Residents said they believe changing the city code to allow camping in some areas won’t change the addiction crisis or other problems that lead to homelessness.
One resident, TJ Browning, read a statement from a 70-year-old resident who said that Laurelhurst Park was unusable because of needles and human waste. The resident said even if folks aren’t camping in the park, allowing camping on lots near parks and open spaces would continue to contribute to the problem.
In an email to KOIN 6 News, Trisha Patterson, a board member of Portland: Neighbors Welcome, said unsanctioned camping “– such as the camps you showcased during the segment — is expressly forbidden in the proposal. The proposed shelters in the policy would be regulated by the city and administered by government or nonprofits with on-site sanitation and other supportive services.”
Many of the residents said the federal government shares the blame for the homeless crisis by not putting enough funds toward low-income housing.
Members of the public can still comment on the proposed zoning change by testifying online. Folks have until Tuesday, March 30 to comment.