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Follow Up Statement on FALL BMP Allocation for Benches in Green Space

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I’ve heard a lot of concern over recent reports about an allocation in the Fall BMP to explore options that mitigate the size of encampments at Laurelhurst Park and other green spaces and would like to provide some clarity. They are concerns I appreciate, because they are mostly coming from folks with the best interests of our most vulnerable neighbors in mind.

I do not and will not support hostile architecture such as boulders or cement structures that cut off access to public space for everyone and are designed exclusively to prevent any camping in an area. Some of my colleagues would support a move in that direction and I have fought hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.

For the safety of everyone involved, I do believe that while we live in the unfortunate reality that involves so many people’s basic needs not being met and understanding that houselessness will persist in Portland for the foreseeable future, that mitigating the size of encampments is in the best interest of everyone involved - housed and unhoused. The larger an encampment becomes, the more difficult and resource intensive it is to sustain services, the more health hazards become present, the risk of fire increases, and they can sometimes obstruct roads, blocking off access for first responders.

One option I was intrigued by was adding benches without dividers (allowing people to lay down) that are distributed in a manner that would mitigate the size of encampments in certain areas, but not prevent all camping in the area. These benches would be accessible for everyone to utilize and rest regardless of their housing status.

As the PBOT and Fire & Rescue Commissioner, I have a responsibility to keep roads accessible to first responders. These are difficult decisions, especially as I am not the Housing Commissioner, nor do I oversee the Joint Office of Houseless Services.

I appreciate the community expressing concern on behalf of our houseless neighbors. I’m always open to feedback, so please reach out to my office at joann@portlandoregon.gov to share your thoughts directly with my team and I, which we will take into account as this moves forward.