Mayor Ted Wheeler launches new plan for sanctioned campsites
Mayor Ted Wheeler today signaled that he wants to create large, licensed outdoor campsites to keep people off the streets of Portland.
While the mayor’s office said The Oregonian, who first reported the story earlier today that the plan was to convince the legislature to allocate funds to Portland for emergency shelter, Wheeler’s office said WW he intends to follow the plan anyway.
“He recognizes that we may need to use other creative methods to fund these critical resources,” said mayor’s spokesman Rich Chatman. “This is an emergency and the mayor intends to handle this with the same determination he would handle to help the victims of a weather-related emergency: the safety and health of the people of Portland are first priority.”
The Oregonian indicated that the sites would provide basic services and the locations are unknown. The timeline, too, is unclear.
Chatman says Wheeler will use his emergency declaration powers for the plan because “he has decided that is what is needed to ensure the work is done with the immediate priority it deserves,” but added that “cooperation from the City Council and the County Chairman will be key factors in the success and speed with which his goal of finding safe and healthy shelter options for our homeless neighbors is achieved.
Chatman adds that no one would be forced to move to a shelter.
Wheeler and a handful of other Oregon mayors last week called on the Legislature to allocate funds next session for emergency shelters. A copy of the proposal shows Portland asking for just under $20 million for emergency shelters. Seven other cities are applying for funding under the overall $50 million program.
A spokesperson for Brown said the governor had not seen the cities proposal and was focused on “working with local partners on evidence-based solutions to address the housing and homelessness issues we know how to work: prevention of homelessness, acquisition of accommodation sites (such as the turnkey project), proximity and housing placement, and crisis stabilisation.
City Commissioner Dan Ryan balked at Wheeler’s proposal.
“I haven’t heard anything about this announcement from Mayor Wheeler, and it begs the question: is there a plan?” said Ryan. “Massive outdoor shelter sites are a dangerous proposition. If I see a plan, I hope there will be action to address rampant crime related to cheap and readily available drugs in our community and our urgent need for addiction services. I’m open to thoughtful solutions – I’m all for it – but I can’t support this idea of bringing together hundreds of vulnerable people without social services, community safety guarantees or a strategic management plan in place. .
Political advocacy group People for Portland, which has lobbied local elected officials to take urgent action to clean up city streets, expressed support for the idea, calling it a ‘good first step’ .
Commissioner Mingus Mapps expressed cautious support. “I applaud the efforts of the mayor’s office to put all options on the table, but I have not yet been briefed on the details of this proposal,” Mapps said. “What’s clear to me is that the people of Portland want immediate action, and that moves the conversation forward.”
Commissioner Carmen Rubio declined to comment, and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Wheeler’s announcement comes a week after a controversial memo written by the mayor’s senior aide Sam Adams proposed three shelters for 1,000 people.
And it comes two weeks after Wheeler banned camping along highways and major city roads in response to a large number of pedestrian fatalities, many of which involve people camping near busy traffic lanes.
Today the mayor’s office announced an extension of the emergency ban for at least two weeks and announced that three camps along major roads and highways had been swept away.