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Wheeler touts ‘off-ramps from homelessness’ in Portland

By Elise HaasTim Steele,


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It was a virtual meeting, but hundreds of Southeast Portland residents showed up to question Mayor Ted Wheeler about the plan to put in a sanctioned, managed campsite for up to 150 adults.

The people most affected by this site near SE Gideon and Powell had a lot of questions for Wheeler. In November, the Portland City Council voted to approve a ban on unsanctioned camping and instead manage multiple, large sanctioned sites.

The overall plan is to have 6 sanctioned campsites around the city for 3 years.

Safe Park Village to provide housing in Montavilla neighborhood

In this latest meeting the mayor has held with residents near the proposed sites, Wheeler outlined people in the camp will get food, electricity, restrooms, showers, laundry, storage, a pet area, transit and regular trash pickup. They will also be connected to behavioral health services in an effort to transition them into housing.

“My stated public goal is to have no unsanctioned homeless camping anywhere in the city of Portland. But in order for that to work, we have to provide off-ramps from homelessness.”

— Mayor Ted Wheeler

“This model is intended to connect people with services. It’s intended to do it at a scale that we can actually remove large numbers of people from the streets and into better circumstances,” the mayor said Tuesday night.

No walk-ins will be allowed. That will prevent people from lining up. Instead, outreach workers will refer people on the streets to a sanctioned camp.

“The governor has committed that she will seek to deliver and fund rigid pods, pod structures for this encampment,” Wheeler said.

Register for the Thursday Community Conversation with Mayor Wheeler

Residents also asked about safety protocols for nearby schools.

“We know that there is a safe route to school immediately adjacent to this proposed site,” the mayor said. “We will absolutely work to ensure that that is a safe route.”

He also suggested strategies of adding crossing guards and monitors.

As for weapons and drugs, service providers said they will ask people to check in those items at the gate but they won’t be policing the property when they leave.

There will also be a 15-1 client-to-staff ratio at the camp along with a 24/7 hotline to report issues.

“My stated public goal is to have no unsanctioned homeless camping anywhere in the city of Portland. But in order for that to work, we have to provide off-ramps from homelessness,” Mayor Wheeler said.

Montavilla residents to Portland: Hear us on Safe Park Village

No one would be required to live at the camp. A city survey found 8 in 10 homeless people said they would not go to an indoor congregate shelter — but 6 in 10 would go to an outdoor campsite.

City officials said they will keep metrics to record how effective this model is.

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