PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Commissioner Dan Ryan’s former senior policy advisor resigned hours before Ryan and Mayor Ted Wheeler on Oct. 21 unveiled a plan to build three campuses to house homeless individuals.
In an email correspondence obtained by KOIN 6, Margaux Weeke, Ryan’s then-director and senior policy advisor, announced she would be stepping down from her position due to a “moral conflict.”
“It is my strong belief that forcing hundreds of unhoused people into large, sanctioned camping sites with minimal services will cause irreparable trauma and unnecessary deaths,” said Weeke. “I am deeply concerned that the involvement of law enforcement in relocating unhoused people to sanctioned camps will result in violence and the further criminalization of houselessness. I hope that I am wrong, but I cannot in good conscience work to advance this initiative in partnership with the Mayor’s office.”
The letter was first reported by Street Roots.
Similarly to Weeke, homeless individuals shared safety concerns regarding mass homeless camping during a town hall meeting on Nov. 1. Attendees said their concerns come from experiences they have had in other congregated camps not sanctioned by the city.
One woman said she doesn’t know how the city would plan to keep 500 people safe in a camp. “There’s more danger to it than I can even specify,” she said.
The proposed campuses would home 100 to 125 people but would expand over time, according to Wheeler. Food, bathrooms and social services would be available to individuals using the campuses, Wheeler said.
The city commissioners unanimously agreed with Wheeler that action needs to be taken. However, following the event, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty released a statement saying she would not endorse or oppose the mayor’s full plan.
The plan would also ban self-sited, unsanctioned camps entirely.