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Mayor Wheeler asks Portland neighborhoods to help fight homelessness problem

In a one-on-one interview, Wheeler said he's hoping neighborhoods can help Portland's homeless get access to the services they need.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he wants to use city property, and also property in neighborhoods, to host more homeless camps.

The latest Point-In-Time Count of homelessness in Multnomah County found roughly 2,000 people living on the streets of Portland.

As he runs for re-election, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said more needs to be done to help them.

Taxpayers in Portland and Multnomah County already spend more than $70 million a year paying for homeless services.

This summer and fall, it's hard to tell anything has improved by looking at the city streets lined with tents and campsites. Wheeler is asking neighborhoods to help out.

"We're working with neighborhoods and others to find managed camp sites where people would have access to water and hygiene, toilets and potentially services to help get them off and keep them off the streets,” said Wheeler.

What's not obvious from a glance at Portland's streets is that the tax money helps 12,000 people say in their homes through rent assistance, according to the Point-In-Time count. That is double the number of people from five years ago.

The city and county are also making progress on building affordable housing. Back in 2017, the city and county set a goal of building 2,000 new units. So far they have built about 1,300.

Still, the tents and camps seem to be everywhere. Wheeler said COVID-19 restrictions from the CDC make it hard to send out teams to help break up the big camps.