Thank you to everyone who has called testified, emailed, and written about this important issue.
As I’ve shared with the Mayor’s staff – who have graciously spent a lot of time with me and my staff on this issue – I am voting no. Here’s why.
The spirit of this ordinance is to balance the very real need to get more people into a variety of shelters options and the safety and livability of neighbors throughout our city.
That is a hard balance to strike.
I hear, know, and understand the concerns that we all face when we are seeing crime, livability issues, trash, and all the concerns that people very validly have.
Nothing about this work is easy.
And that’s why I want to lift up the hard work of staff and city and county employees – from the Street Services Coordination Center to safety net and first responders to Project Street Response – who are out in our city every day, working with our houseless community members, and working to make sure our city is ensuring accessibility, cleanliness, and safety for all Portlanders.
I also know that the Mayor’s intent here is not to put in place a green light to arrest people. That I don’t doubt – but for me, I need to see that this ordinance is planful about its impact, and does not cause harm.
As I said last week, this Council had a public discussion last year about our values related to camping bans, and while we agreed a policy would need to be on the table in the future, we also committed to exclude any provisions that would criminalize people SOLELY for being homeless.
It is not clear to me, at this time, if this ordinance maintains that commitment.
I do believe that, with some time and alignment, we had an opportunity to get this right, by giving all the people involved – whether that is neighborhood associations, shelter providers, police officers, security officers, houseless folks – an ability to truly understand the implications of this ordinance and make plans to address gaps accordingly.
For example, I would have preferred:
- that our timelines match with the increase in available shelter sites;
- to give our shelter providers time to understand and adjust their daytime capacity accordingly and bring in new partners for additional capacity;
- to give our new Training Dean, who starts tomorrow, the time they need to train our officers not only on the details of this ordinance, but also on our expectation that any enforcement mechanisms be carried out with dignity towards our unhoused neighbors;
- and, finally, time for providers and houseless individuals to know what IS in place, so that when things go into effect there is a shared understanding about where people can go or be referred to. I think one suggestion was a resource list or map, which I think is a good idea.
But to move the policy forward before all these pieces are ready to go does not make good or responsible policy sense to me.
The success of us solving the houseless crisis rests in our ability to work together and jointly, not siloed. And this feels like a unilateral action by the city – instead of in partnership with others.
Not doing so created an “us vs. them” situation, as we saw play out during public testimony last week. I know we are all tired and saddened by this narrative.
Finally, before I cast my vote, I want to be very clear that I continue to support the Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites with services to bring the stability houseless community members very much need – and I stand with the Mayor 100 percent on this and will do all I can to ensure its success.
In addition, my team continues to work to speed up housing production, to build a fuller continuum of support for many different individual needs, and to provide a path away from the houseless crisis.
We need to do all of the above – and I am committed to everything we are doing, except for this one step.