Commissioner Ryan’s Response to the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group

Press Release
Commissioner Ryan speaking with Beven Byrnes, Principal/Executive Director of Bridges Middle School, at the SW Naito site
Commissioner Ryan’s Response to the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group Press Conference on May 6th, 2022.

I would like to start by restating we are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, and Portlanders demand action. I am disappointed that the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group chose to retract their support of the Queer Affinity Village, and that they chose to do so in a public venue. As an openly gay man since the early 80’s and a 40-year long-term survivor of HIV, I am deeply disappointed with such unnecessary fear. The SW Naito site is the new location for the Queer Affinity Village (relocating from SE Water Ave), which prioritizes LGBTQIA+ Portlanders experiencing houselessness—some of the most marginalized and vulnerable people living on our streets.  

Contrary to today’s allegation that the Safe Rest Village Team has been unresponsive, there have been at least a dozen meetings with Beven Byrnes, Principal and Executive Director of Bridges Middle School, and Bodo Heiliger, Head of School at the International School of Portland, and many more conversations with the stakeholder group at large. My office is happy to provide additional public records related to our consistent communications with the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group. 

I was also disappointed to hear Beven and Bodo imply that I haven’t met with them, as we all toured the SW Naito site together almost five months ago. I believed then, and I still believe today, that we have found true partners who understand the crisis we are facing, and I very much enjoyed our time and conversation together.  

Months ago, the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group provided a list of requests that my team worked hard to meet—including implementing an administrative rule to create a 150-foot no-camping buffer zone around all new villages.  

The 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group highlighted several concerns regarding the Queer Affinity Village that is moving in next week: background checks, a 1000-foot buffer zone, and a “Safe Rest Village Advisory Board.” I want to address these concerns and correct misconceptions that were voiced today:  

  1. I want to break out of the false dichotomy between low-barrier and no-barrier shelter. The primary goal of our services-first villages is to meet people where they are and to engage them in services that build stability, dignity, and resilience. That includes removing the obstacles that often keep someone who is unsheltered from coming into shelter. Multnomah County has been nationally recognized as a best practice in the implementation of their low barrier upon entry shelter strategy, and to correct today’s record, criminal history screening is not part of any of our publicly funded shelters. That does not, however, invalidate any potential parole and probation requirements, nor does it mean relaxing rules and expectations around conduct. The Queer Affinity Village has a code of conduct that all participants abide by, along with 24/7 intensive wraparound services provided by All Good NW. 

  1. In February, Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Ryan announced an administrative rule that prohibits camping within 150 feet of a Safe Rest Village. This rule was created in response to the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group‘s request for such a buffer, in consultation with other Council offices, and in keeping with best practices for City resources that address houselessness, specifically the Impact Reduction Program. Read more about the Impact Reduction Program and its policies here: City of Portland Campsite Removal Policy | 

  1. The City’s Safe Rest Village Team would love to learn more about what the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group’s views as an appropriate Safe Rest Villages Advisory Board—we have demonstrated our commitment to community engagement—and we welcome additional conversation in concert with the Joint Office of Homeless Services on the structure and implementation of such a board.  

I understand that issues related to houseless services are complex and emotional. Community safety and stakeholder engagement is a top priority for every housed Portlander and every Villager. I ran an educational non-profit, and I am demonstrably committed to educating the next generation. Students are stakeholders too, and every child deserves to be educated in a safe environment. I reject the notion that Villages will “attract predatory drug dealers,” I am deeply concerned that the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group chose to stoke fear regarding sexual orientation by targeting the Queer Affinity Village, and I stand by my conviction that Villages will make communities safer.  

Houselessness and community safety are undeniably interconnected. I believe that unhoused Portlanders who choose to become Villagers, albeit temporarily, will prove to be terrific neighbors for the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group. It benefits all of us to provide our neighbors with a safe space to sleep, store their belongings, have access to hygiene, and get the services they need to move into housing.  

I am serving my hometown during a time when we simply cannot continue to tolerate the unacceptable status quo on our streets. I know the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group and the schools’ communities are in agreement, and I look forward to being partners as we move forward and heal.  

I hope that we all operate in good faith as we work as a community to find solutions for our homeless crisis. I am happy to meet with the 2300 SW Naito Stakeholder Group again. Relationships move at the speed of trust. I am here to build that trust. 

The Queer Affinity Village is the only village setting of its kind that specifically focuses its service delivery to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folks, which uniquely positions the community to collaborate with one another as they face similar barriers. The Queer Affinity Villagers will begin moving in next week. Participants at the Queer Affinity Village hope to contribute to the expansion of LGBTQ culturally specific sheltering services to interrupt intergenerational traumas that affect the LGBTQ community. This shelter provides community care and an opportunity for LGBTQ folks without houses to have a safe place to be together while they work towards their goals.