PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of Portland is moving forward with the controversial plan to create mass sanctioned encampments for homeless people. But the big unanswered question has been about where they will be located.
Back in November, the Portland City Council approved an amended version of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s plan to slowly ban homeless camping over an 18-month period, instead building six large-scale sanctioned campsites. Now the city appears to be looking at several pieces of private property where homeless camping is already prominent.
One site under consideration is a privately-owned parking lot in the Central Eastside, in an area known as the Clinton Triangle. It’s one of the last underdeveloped areas in the Central Eastside, and it could soon be where about 150 homeless people are placed in a sanctioned camp.
Recent changes to the city budget secured the city $27 million to build three of the six sites.
“If half of what I’ve been hearing in the last few months is true, then we’re all done anyway,” said Lilly, a homeless person who currently stays near the Clinton Triangle on the Central Eastside.
The city has not publicly released the locations of the sites, but the Mayor’s public calendar notes that he was scheduled to work on a letter of intent connected to the Clinton Triangle location last month. Mayor Wheeler's office confirmed that the city has letters of intent for two other site locations.
A Reinventing Cities presentation says that the city welcomes proposals for the Clinton Triangle location that “prioritize mixed-use, high-density development, affordable housing as well as space for local retail and community services that serve the neighborhoods should also be included in the development program.”
In community conversations and presentations, Mayor Wheeler has said that the temporary alternative shelter sites will be on plots of between 2 and 4 acres, near public transportation, away from schools and residential areas as much as possible, and have on-site staff 24 hours a day among other things.
The owner of the Clinton Triangle lot in question, construction contractor Stacy and Witbeck, did not respond to KGW’s request for comment on Monday.
“I mean everybody’s got to go somewhere, but why here? This isn’t a conducive neighborhood to being homeless,” said Lilly, who believes one of these mass encampments will further hurt the area.
“Depending on how many people they want to put there it’s somewhat spacious and really easy access to transit lines things like that,” said Roman Mendieta, another homeless person camping in the Central Eastside.
KGW walked into five different businesses in the area. All of the owners had a lot to say about the homeless crisis and the potential for a designated camping site nearby. They all agree something needs to be done, but none of them would go on the record for fear of backlash.
They also didn't know their neighborhood was potentially being considered for the project. According to the Mayor’s office, they are preparing outreach teams to meet with neighborhoods where the sites will be located to develop Good Neighbor Agreements. Once a letter of intent is processed, city staff will meet with the surrounding neighborhood associations and other stakeholders.
“Makes me question why he doesn’t focus his efforts somewhere that’s better placed, more useful ... we don’t need to push people together. I think people should have the freedom to be where they want to be,” said Mendieta.
There are unconfirmed reports of other sites under consideration by the city, including a parking lot under the west side of the Morrison Bridge.