Street Roots holds homeless town hall for Portland Mayor Wheeler

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Portland mayor, Commissioner Dan Ryan attended the town hall

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the wake of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s recent announcement banning unsanctioned camping on city streets, people who work directly with the homeless held their own town hall with the mayor and Commissioner Dan Ryan in attendance.

Street Roots Executive Director Kaia Sands called on Wheeler to hear from people who have slept on the streets. At the time of his announcement, the mayor said he never heard from those people directly, but heard from city staff who work with the homeless.

The mayor’s plan in part calls for banning unsanctioned camping and creating 3 sanctioned camps for up to 500 people with services on-site to help people.

But the mass congregation concerned people and some worried this plan will not solve the core causes of homelessness.

There were no TV cameras allowed inside the Tuesday town hall that was also hosted by Blanchet House. But KOIN 6 News learned people are fearful of making sleeping outside a crime and the consequences that may have for someone’s immigration status.

People had safety concerns based on interactions they’ve had in other camps not sanctioned by the city. And they worried about breaking up families or couples by sweeping people off the streets.

Veronica Thomas doesn’t know how the city would plan to keep 500 people safe in a camp. “There’s more danger to it than I can even specify,” she said.

One woman with Ground Score Association said constant sweeps are creating a situation where the people on the streets don’t trust anyone, even organizations wanting to help. “You’re taking everything they have and throwing it out and I don’t think that’s right,” she said.

Ground Score Association is an organization that hires and serves people who are or have been homeless.

Kristopher Brown with Ground Score Association, November 1, 2022 (KOIN)
Kristopher Brown with Ground Score Association, November 1, 2022 (KOIN)

“It takes communication with everyone — the non-profits, the businesses, the government,” said Kristopher Brown with Ground Score Association. “We need to stop just throwing money at something and expecting someone to find a solution and have everyone contribute to finding the solution instead of expecting just a few people to find the solution to this.”

Brown, who has been homeless for 6 years, said there needs to be more access to job training to give “people the confidence” to be in the workforce again.

KOIN 6 News will have more information later.

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