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'Not appropriate for this purpose': Portland parks off the table for temporary homeless communities

Portland City Council members voted unanimously to remove parks and open spaces from a list of proposed zoning changes to address the homeless crisis.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland park sites and other land zoned as open space are off the table for temporary, organized shelter camps. The Portland City Council made the unanimous decision Wednesday while considering amendments to its Shelter to Housing Continuum Project. 

The S2HC, as it’s also referred to, is a series of proposed zoning code changes meant to address Portland’s homeless crisis by loosening restrictions on where homeless camps can be set up.  

Over the last several weeks, the city council has heard a lot of public testimony on the effort, the majority centered on a proposal that would allow nonprofits and agencies to set up temporary, organized camps similar to the Kenton Women's Shelter in open space zones including Portland parks. Council members said they considered all testimony before voting unanimously to take parks and open spaces off the table.

“This was not the preferred option nor the intention, and rather our focus should be on permanent solutions,” said Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “We need to look for available city-owned land for these potentially permanent sites.”

Commissioner Dan Ryan added, “I hope that this amendment provides reassurance to concerned community members.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler also supported the amendment.

“I agree with my colleagues that natural and sensitive areas are not appropriate for this purpose,” said Wheeler.

The city council did not get through all the proposed amendments on S2HC, Wednesday. They will continue discussion April 14 when they'll consider allowing shelters on institutional sites like churches.

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