PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Just a week after the City of Portland announced the first possible location of a sanctioned campsite for the homeless, residents nearby had the chance to take their questions straight to Mayor Ted Wheeler on Friday.

The Clinton Triangle is a small plot of land along SE Powell Boulevard, just feet from the railroad and MAX Orange Line. Though the lease isn’t finalized yet, it could soon be home to one of six mass homeless camps slated to go in around Portland by 2024.

The camp would be fit for at least 150 people (to start) – including food, restrooms, showers, laundry and physical and mental health services.

“The goal here again isn’t just to throw up a tent camp. That’s not the point,” Wheeler said. “The point here is to begin the deliberate process of rebuilding the behavioral health and substance use disorder public health infrastructure that’s currently lacking in the community. If we truly are committed to ending homelessness, we have to connect people to services, and it’s got to be done at scale.”

Neighbors took their questions directly to the mayor and California-based non-profit Urban Alchemy, which will manage the site at 1490 SE Gideon Street, between the Brooklyn and Hosford-Abernethy neighborhoods.

“Brooklyn neighbors overwhelmingly think ‘housing first’ is a good approach, and this is not a ‘housing first’ approach,” said John Karabaic, chairman of the Brooklyn Action Corps. “In fact, it was stated explicitly during the meeting, by the mayor, that services are needed before you give people housing. There’s concern about governance of the site, there’s a lot of concern for our unhoused neighbors, how safe that site will be for them.”

Some brought up the 1000-foot no-camping perimeter around the site and who would enforce it. 

The city says it won’t be Portland Police. Instead, it would likely be an agency that already works with the homeless. Others brought up the proximity to the MAX Orange line and industrial railways, as well as the need for actual housing in the area.

JP Veillet is the chief and founder of Northwest Sustainable Properties, which developed one of the properties just feet away from the Clinton Triangle site. He said he doesn’t think the project has been thought through.

“I think it’s just kind of a convenient location,” he said. “I think that we really need to start investing in longer term plans, not short answers that seem to Band-Aid and then we go onto another problem.”

Some concerned residents and businesses told KOIN 6 they feel plans aren’t well thought-out — and think other solutions should be looked at first.

“Shoring up some of the issues with the houselessness with existing buildings,” said Veillet, suggesting the city look at existing buildings and structures.

During the meeting, Mayor Wheeler said the city looked at other alternatives like motels and tiny home villages, but says this is a first step in also providing assistance to the driving forces behind homelessness, such as behavioral health, job support and substance treatment.

“We don’t think this one should have the emphasis that it does but we’re not going to stand in the way of making it unsuccessful. We’re dedicated to making sure our unhoused neighbors are taken care of,” said Karabaic.

There are more meetings planned for next week between neighbors and the officials behind the proposed sanctioned campsite on Tuesday, March 21 and Thursday, March 23.

Both are scheduled to run from 5:30-6:30 p.m. 

Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.