PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Local businesses like Salt & Straw, Stumptown, Olympia Provisions, Revant Optics, and Smith Teamaker within the central eastside of Portland are on the cusp of calling it quits.
“One of our employees on his way into our central kitchen was held up at gunpoint, a gun in his face as he walked in to make ice cream,” said Salt & Straw CEO Kim Malek. “A week later, our team is working, and they look out the window to see an explosion. Then everything went dark, and they’re left inside this building in terror at three in the morning.”
“How should I rationalize continuing to grow our business in this neighborhood?” said Darren Marshall, CEO of Smith Teamaker. “We deal daily with human feces on our shoes. We deal with break-ins, we deal with assaults, we deal with cars that get broken into. This afternoon, we had an explosion around the corner from us, fire everywhere. That’s the world that we live in every day.”
These local businesses are committed to taking back the city they love, that’s why they asked leaders to sit and listen as they shared stories of their struggles with safety, policing, economic hardship, filth and homelessness.
Leaders like Representative Rob Nosse said the state needs to fully fund mental illness, addiction, and homeless services. He believes the new governor will deliver.
“The legislature, frankly, we need to step up and make it easier to operate these kinds of facilities,” Nosse said. “We need to make it easier to pay people better to do this work and we need to have more private sector mental health providers willing to actually this kind of facility. I think we are making progress on that, but probably not enough.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler already promised to bring a 90-day plan to reset the central eastside, increase trash clean up, camp removal, and police presence, like the city has done in Old Town.
“I think that we’re going to have to tailor our response specifically for the needs of the central eastside as we go down this journey with this group, and hopefully we’ll just be able to keep on maintaining it,” said Portland Police Bureau Captain James Crooker.
Overall, Wheeler says his five latest resolutions on homelessness will make the biggest difference.
“I believe these five resolutions are a radical departure from the status quo,” Wheeler said. “It will provide enforcement citywide, not just block by block, not just neighborhood by neighborhood, but citywide.”
Wheeler asked the businesses to stick it out, and give him a chance to deliver.