PORTLAND, Ore. -- Staff for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office told KGW Friday the Mayor plans to oppose efforts to move the city’s longstanding homeless camp “Right To Dream Too” to a city-owned parking lot along Southwest Naito Parkway at Market Street.
The suggestion was floated last week by City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, as a resolution to Portland’s years-long battle to move the camp.
The Portland Development Commission has said it plans to purchase the lot it sits on, at Northwest 4th Avenue and West Burnside Street, if it’s vacated by April 7.
Mayor Wheeler addressed the issue Friday during a taping of KGW's Straight Talk with Laural Porter.
“I’m not confident that we're going to figure it out between now and April 7th,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler.
“So, what happens?” asked Porter.
“I don't know,” said the Mayor. “That’s the answer.”
He added the city has spent $800,000 in the last three years, in attempts to move the camp. He added, if there were an easy solution, someone would have found it by now.
“Showing up on January 1st and having people put this problem at my door step and saying ‘You have three minutes to solve the problem’… I'm sorry. I can't do that,” he said. “I can’t save everybody.”
Mayoral spokesman Michael Cox said via phone Friday, “First, the city is committed to moving R2D2 by April 7th.”
“The Mayor supports Commissioner Fritz’s efforts to find a new location and understands how challenging that can be,” he said.
Cox said Friday, after news broke that the city was considering moving the camp to the SW Naito lot, Wheeler’s office was flooded with calls.
“The Mayor and our office has heard from businesses and workers and residents in the area… and they’re nearly uniform in their opposition,” he said.
Cox then reiterated the city plans to move the camp by its April deadline, but he confirmed there are no other proposed locations on the table.
In light of that realization, concern for R2D2 is growing within Portland's homeless community.
“They've become a critical triage entity to support people who are suffering on the streets, but then they’ve also become a great organization to be able to give people the stability to be able to work on themselves,” said Israel Bayer, executive director of Street Roots, a paper that covers homeless issues.
“Street Roots would be highly disappointed if the city of Portland did not figure out something in the interim to support Right 2 Dream Too.”
So would Shadow.
He stayed at R2D2 during Portland’s recent cold snap and said, without the camp, he might have died.
“I would love it to stay here instead of moving it because, I mean, you can get a lot around here,” he said. “And believe me. They’ve saved a lot of people’s lives because of this place.”
Commissioner Amanda Fritz told the Portland Mercury Friday, "The mayor has decided we will not move forward… At this point, he is the housing commissioner. He's also the commissioner in charge of the [Portland Development Commission]."