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Clackamas County chair rescinds vote to turn Quality Inn into homeless shelter

By Brandon Thompson,


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith rescinded her vote Wednesday for the county to purchase a hotel with state and metro money. It would have created a transitional housing complex at Clackamas Quality Inn, despite county staff saying it was critical infrastructure the county lacks.

Her decision came at the end of a land use hearing that Smith turned into an emergency board meeting. However, there was never a public notice about that meeting, leaving some people to question if the county violated open meeting laws.

“I was very surprised she had been a champion of this vote,” said Anna Hoesly, a pastor and organizer in Clackamas County.

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Smith told KOIN 6 she wants a better plan rather than just spending money.

“We’re going to go back to the drawing board. We’re going to bring in the community, we’re going to bring in thought leaders across the United States and Oregon. And we’re going to address this problem at the grassroots level,” she said.

Smith instead proposed a three-point plan that included putting a vote to Clackamas County voters to repeal Measure 110 , a law that decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs.

She wants to create a summit of citizens and businesses and a “blue ribbon committee” to talk about the issue.

Cole Merkel, the co-director of Here Together, was on a similar county blue ribbon committee four years ago.

“We need more housing, more transitional housing opportunities and we need more services to wrap around because you need that continuum to tackle homelessness – so saying we need to continue studying this issue, is a delay tactic,” Merkel said.

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But Smith said it’s “time to take action and stop debating strategies.”

“Well, what’s the strategy? …The strategy is to buy hotels or apartments and put homeless in and maybe they get services and maybe they don’t,” Smith said.

Smith points to the latest point in time count—showing the number of people counted dropped from over 11 hundred in 2019 to less than 600 last year as reason why the county has time.

There was a lawsuit filed in the past week over the planned purchase of this motel. KOIN 6 asked Smith if that played into her decision. She said no and that the county would have won that lawsuit anyway.

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