PORTLAND, Ore. — Mayor Ted Wheeler provided a first look Thursday at what it will cost to get his new homeless plan off the ground. The plan calls for creating six large sanctioned campsites for up to 250 people, coupled with a gradually phased-in citywide citywide ban on unsanctioned camping.
At a city council meeting Thursday, Wheeler proposed $27 million in funding to, among other things, conduct a public land evaluation for affordable housing.
"It also covers the capital, site preparation, and construction costs, as well as one year of operations, for three designated camping sites," he said.
The public knew relatively little about how the campsites would be built or operated until Thursday.
Willamette Week reported that Wheeler's aide, Sam Adams, shared further details on a Zoom call with stakeholders. Adams reportedly revealed that each of the up to 250 people at each campsite must be referred by an outreach worker.
There will be no walk-ins. There will be no weapons or fires either. Drugs and alcohol will not be tolerated in common spaces. Two meals a day will be provided at the campsites, along with access to housing assistance and basic hygiene services.
The stringency of the access requirements led some advocates for the homeless community to question whether the camps would be able to meet their intended goal.
"I'm wondering how many of the people we serve in Old Town would access or even qualify for these camps," said Scott Kerman of Blanchet House.
"Mayor Wheeler's plan seems aspirational but we have a healthy sense of skepticism that it is achievable as outlined," added Susan Lindsay of the Buckman Neighborhood Association.
What is not up for debate is the cost of the plan that will ultimately ban sidewalk camping in Portland. The city cannot do it alone. The county, state, and Metro will need to chip in.
"It's no surprise this work requires a considerable amount of funding," Wheeler said.