PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland City Council made some big decisions Thursday night regarding the homeless crisis.
The council passed all five resolutions they were set to vote on, including a ban on unsanctioned camping. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was the sole no-vote on the camping ban.
All leaders voted unanimously to increase affordable housing, paid jobs for the homeless, mental health and addiction services, and a diversion program for the homeless.
Two noteworthy amendments came from Hardesty and Commissioner Carmen Rubio.
Rubio’s amendment to reduce the size of the sanction camps passed. It changed the resolution from three 500 person campuses to six campuses with a maximum of 250 people each. Hardesty’s resolution to distribute the sanctioned camps evenly throughout Portland also passed.
“I want to reiterate that those Portlanders who are unhoused and living on the streets, deserve our understanding, compassion, and help. Our goal is to connect people to the services they need to get off and stay off the streets. Our resolutions acknowledge the reality in Portland and set direction on what we hope to achieve,” Mayor Wheeler said.
While there is not a set date for implementation, the council says they are going to work toward these aspirational resolutions within the next 18 months, as they secure funding. Changes could occur sooner, though Mayor Wheeler clarified that the 18 months served as a deadline.
The council will direct city bureaus and council offices to work together to develop a plan that identifies needed policy changes, investments, and public, nonprofit and private partnerships to greatly expand the number of available shelter slots as quickly as possible.
On Thursday, KOIN 6 spoke with local Robert Davis who is currently unhoused in the downtown area, unable to afford rent on his fixed income.
“What are people supposed to do? And as far as the homeless stuff, I’ve never seen it like this and I’ve been here since 1980,” said Davis.
He added that while there doesn’t seem to be one right answer to the crisis, he’s not opposed to the camps but worries about the potential impact on civil rights.
“It reminds me of what we did to the Japanese back in World War II. We put them in those camps. It’s not much different so I’m wondering how is this going to fly with civil rights and whatnot,” said Davis. “I’ll set up camp at a site and give it a shot and if it gets me back someplace I can afford, well then, hey, great. If not, I’ll go deeper in the woods.”
With all five aspirational resolutions passed, Mayor Wheeler says the work is only just beginning.
“The hard part is ahead. These are resolutions. Now we have to make it work,” said Mayor Wheeler. “Even if you didn’t get the vote you wanted on a particular resolution, there still will be opportunity to shape these proposals.”