Homeless organizations differ on Wheeler’s Portland camping ban

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Street Roots opposes, All Good Northwest cautiously optimistic

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s call to ban unsanctioned camping across the city has drawn differing reactions from local organizations.

The mayor says people illegally camping would be referred to a sanctioned campsite where services for housing and mental health would be available.

The organizations that spoke with KOIN 6 News said affordable housing goals and getting people to services are good things for Portland– but the ban on camping is much more mixed.

Part of the Wheeler plan is that the majority of people who are homeless are disconnected from services — like mental health, job or housing support — that could help their situation. Part of the three large sanctioned campsites the mayor hopes to create offer those services.

Street Roots, the newspaper employing homeless people to sell their publication, says the housing and services part is great, but has significant worries about banning camping.

“I feel like they’re just pulling out some ideas around mass camps and just throwing them against the wall and seeing if they’ll stick and they’re bringing forward these ideas around making homelessness itself illegal, and they’re not actually getting input from unhoused people,” said Kaia Sand, Executive Director of Street Roots.

However, All Good Northwest says the plan could work if it’s done right.

“If there are services there, if it’s easier to access those services, fantastic. And that goes to whatever model of shelter we’re talking about, be it a congregate setting like we run on Southeast Market, or any of these village shelters or motel shelters. Whatever the model, it’s access to resources,” said Andy Goebel, Executive Director of All Good Northwest.

Wheeler called on county leaders to allocate money from the Joint Office of Homeless Services to pay for the project. Wheeler also asked the state for grant and emergency declaration money and called on Metro to increase Portland’s share of the supportive housing bond passed two years ago.

The mayor’s plan also called for the creation of 20,000 new affordable housing units in the next 11 years. Both Goebel and Sand agree that adding any amount of affordable housing is a good priority to have.

The Portland City Council will hold its first vote on Wednesday. The plan is already supported by Commissioners Dan Ryan and Mingus Mapps.

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