PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler wants to extend the state of emergency for the homeless crisis for another 18 months.
The state of emergency was first introduced in October 2015 by then-Mayor Charlie Hales. It allows shelters to be set up in areas where they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed and speeds up the construction of affordable housing.
Originally it was a one-year idea that was extended for another year last fall. The homeless crisis is ongoing and as of June 2017, there were 1,668 unsheltered people in Portland, 1,752 living in emergency shelters and 757 living in transitional housing.
“It is terrible, you never know who you’re going to run in to,” said Sheri Stutsman, who has been homeless for 11 years. “It is a real struggle.”
Stutsman was forced to pack up and move after the city gave notice that her campsite is illegal.
“You don’t even know where you’re going to sleep most of the time or if you’re going to have another meal,” she said.
Despite the continued issue with homelessness, the mayor’s office insists progress is being made.
“The number of shelter beds since the emergency was first declared has increased from 800 to about 1,600,” Wheeler’s spokesperson Michael Cox said. “We’re getting ready to send down a housing bond that would lead to another 1,300.”
The mayor’s office wants more time to “quantify that progress.”
“Need is outpacing our efforts though but we’ve still helped 2,000 more people a year get off the streets and in to housing,” Denis Theriault with the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
He attributed the problem in part to the growing gap between income and the cost of rent.
“It’s a challenge but we didn’t have homelessness like this 30 years ago and we don’t have to have it years from now either,” Theriault said. “We can end this.”