‘It’s bleak’: Non-profit calls for resources as Portland considers homeless camp ban
By Ken BoddieMichaela Bourgeois,2023-06-04
PORTLAND, Ore. ( KOIN ) — As Portland City Council considers Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed ban on daytime homeless camping, Blanchet House says, if passed, the non-profit would need additional resources to meet homeless service needs in the city.
Blanchet House has been around since 1952 and is one of several established non-profits helping the homeless in Old Town. In addition to serving thousands of meals, the organization helps people with clothing, support services and has a residential farm in Carlton for men transitioning from addiction.
On May 25, Mayor Wheeler announced his proposal to ban homeless camping from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The proposal would also ban camping near schools, parks, construction zones and camps blocking entrances to homes and businesses.Thieves drive stolen trailers through Oregon loophole
The updated city code comes after the 2021 adoption of House Bill 3115 , which requires cities to update camping ordinances by July 1, 2023 “to ensure they are objectively reasonable with respect to time, place, and manner restrictions on unsanctioned camping,” according to the mayor’s office.
The ordinance requires written warnings before any penalty and that two documented warnings can lead to criminal penalties. After two prior warnings for not following the ordinance, campers can get a fine of up to $100 and/or imprisonment for up to 30 days.
If approved by City Council, Wheeler says the ordinance will be phased in starting July 1, 2023.City Council creating path to make Portland-to-Vancouver ferry project a reality
With a yearly budget of around $3 billion, Blanchet House Executive Director Scott Kerman says he has discussed the non-profit’s need for public funding and resources with Multnomah County and the Joint Office of Homeless Services, especially with the potential implementation of the camping ban.
“I think the camping ban is going to hit the people that we serve very hard. I think the question is: where are people going to go? Well, what they’ll probably do what they currently do is they’ll come to organizations like Blanchet House, and Rose Haven, and JOIN and Portland Rescue Mission who provide these critical daytime, daylight services,” Kerman said.
Kerman says it’s difficult to secure funding for the organization’s daytime services.‘No one seems to care’: Public testimony on Mayor Wheeler’s proposed camping ban gets contentious
“It’s really hard to get funding if you don’t fit certain criteria, and for some reason, the kind of services that we provide during the day – like hot prepared meals – just doesn’t seem to sync up with funding opportunities right now,” Kerman explained.
He added, “it needs to change. There are a lot of organizations, like Blanchet House, that provide critical daytime services — everything from showers, to food, to clothing, to health care and mental health care and sometimes just a place to be — and it’s almost impossible for us to get public funding for that.”
Amid the call for public funding, the Blanchet House executive director says the need for these services is growing.City of Portland partnership with homeless services office likely to continue
“We are all serving at or above our capacity right now. It’s been a hard three years for the people that we serve and we’ve done our best,” Kerman said. “But the water is overlapping the swimming pool, as they say, and we’re just going to need some support.”
According to Kerman, there is a community among Portland-area non-profits that serve the homeless population.
“We are all invested in each other’s success because we are stronger together. And when non-profits in this community are struggling, whether it’s with funding or staffing, well then the weight shifts to those others,” Kerman explained. “There is so much suffering and need in our community and it’s so varied and so it’s great that we have a lot of non-profits who specialize in different things and what we’re doing is figuring out how we can best lean on each other’s expertise.”Maps of Portland’s potential new voting districts unveiled
In addition to public funding, Kerman explained that the city needs to improve infrastructure for mental health services and addiction treatment — calling the current health care landscape in Oregon “bleak.”
“There’s no question that we have a long way to go to meet the mental health and addiction need in our community. It’s no secret that Oregon, as a state, ranks at or near the bottom in the entire country when it comes to addiction services and mental health services,” Kerman added.
When it comes to solving Portland’s homelessness crisis, Kerman says while the city is making progress in some areas, it’s floundering in others.
“We have to get a handle on this problem, but it’s not just a single problem. We have people who are unsheltered; they are not all the same. They’re not all struggling with the same issues,” Kerman said.Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.