On Thursday, March 9th, Mayor Wheeler held a press conference at City Hall to announce important developments regarding the Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites initiative. First approved by Portland City Council last fall, these shelter sites represent concrete action in a first step towards eliminating the need for unsanctioned outdoor camping.
Announcements included the selection of Urban Alchemy as the service provider that will manage shelter sites and the likely location of the first site, at 1490 SE Gideon Street.
Press Conference participants included Community Safety Director Mike Meyers, Board President of the Central Eastside Industrial Council Eric Cress as well as Jeffers Dickey, Ian Clark-Johnson, and Kirkpatrick Tyler from Urban Alchemy.
Click here to view the KOIN 6 live stream of the press conference.
Mayor Wheeler's prepared remarks:
Good morning and thank you for being here today.
Our rampant rate of homelessness are the top concern for Portlanders and the main priority for my office. This already complex humanitarian crisis is further complicated given its frequent overlap with substance use, behavioral health, and other issues. Our solutions must address all aspects of the issue.
Here’s what we know:
There are hundreds of unsanctioned camps spread out across virtually every neighborhood of our city, all 146 square miles.
Due to the dispersed nature of our homeless population, there’s no way to provide the kind of outreach, consistent case management, or follow-up required to successfully connect people to the services or shelter they need.
Here’s what we are doing about this issue:
The Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites I announced last November are now in the implementation phase.
These sites are part of a multipronged approach to phase-out unsanctioned camping in the City of Portland. This effort will better connect homeless Portlanders who have been camping on sidewalks, along roadways and in public spaces to much-needed services in a safe and sanitary environment.
These sites will complement the array of other shelter services available to homeless Portlanders.
I want to thank Commissioner Dan Ryan for co-sponsoring the five resolutions that City Council approved last November. His partnership and guidance have been critical to this project moving forward.
After analyzing numerous properties across the city of Portland, we have identified some locations that best fit the need for developing these sites, one of which will likely be located at 1490 SE Gideon Street in Central Eastside Portland.
The lot is situated in the Central East Side between the Brooklyn and Hosford-Abernathy neighborhoods.
Initially, this site will have up to 100 tents, housing up to 150 people.
This location will help provide safe designated camping locations for homeless Portlanders who can access basic services like meals, restrooms and showers, laundry, electricity, and storage facilities.
This site is located next to numerous public transportation options and will provide a pet area and community spaces.
Our service teams will provide additional trash receptacles with regular collection and hazardous waste removal in the site and within a 1,000-foot perimeter.
The site will have a perimeter fence and round-the-clock security, managed by the service provider.
These sites will have rules:
There will be no unsanctioned camping within 1,000ft of the site.
There will be no cooking or fires allowed.
Alcohol and/or drug use will not be allowed in common areas or public spaces.
These sites will have security:
Weapons must be checked at the entrance.
The service provider will patrol a 1,000 – foot perimeter surrounding the site 16-hours a day, every day.
There will be a 24/7 hotline staffed by the service provider to quickly address complaints, questions, or report perimeter issues.
These sites will require partnership:
Service providers will regularly engage with surrounding residents, clients, businesses, neighborhood associations, Enhanced Service Districts and others. My administration will continue to regularly meet with stakeholders in the neighborhood as well.
Traditionally, the City of Portland does not provide human services. We will look to community-based partners and Multnomah County partners to coordinate with City staff to perform physical, behavioral, and mental health visits.
We have additional sites in various stages of the negotiation process, some of which we are unable to identify prior to finalizing due to Non-Disclosure Agreements. We look forward to announcing additional sites as the are finalized.
After conducting a comprehensive search, and completing a competitive bidding process, we have selected a qualified service provider with experience managing outdoor shelters.
Urban Alchemy is a California-based non-profit that is best fit to manage Portland’s Temporary Alternative Shetler Sites.
Urban Alchemy already runs numerous sites in California and a congregate homeless shelter in Texas.
My administration, along with Commissioners Ryan and Rubio, and staff from the County, and others have made trips down to Los Angeles and San Francisco to review the sites managed by Urban Alchemy—and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Urban Alchemy will likely run more than one shelter site here in the City of Portland, and their headquarters will be based at the SE Gideon Street location announced today, for which they are the assigned service provider.
I am grateful that Urban Alchemy is partnering with us on this vital project. I am confident that this team is the right team for Portland.
I will turn it over to Urban Alchemy shortly who will provide an overview of operations and security protocols.
My team and our partners have been thorough in developing this project because we want it to be as safe, collaborative, and thoughtful as possible.
As Urban Alchemy continues to finalize their plans for sites in Portland, my team has been working to make contact with stakeholders, residents and business owners near the site.
Many of those we’ve met with have been supportive of this initiative, acknowledging that we’re facing a humanitarian crisis best managed by trained professionals via designated camping sites. This is the humane approach.
I will be hosting ‘Community Conversations,’ to provide opportunities for stakeholders and residents near the SE Gideon site to share their concerns, ask questions, and engage with our service providers.
Two of these conversations will take place over the next few weeks. Those who live or own a business within a half-mile of the site will be receiving information for these conversations via mail in the coming days. We will also provide regular updates on my website: Portland.gov/Wheeler
We will continue engaging with residents and business owners throughout this process as we work to address Portland’s homeless crisis with urgency.
Our goal is to have this site up-and-running by the summer.
Maintaining the status quo is not a compassionate response. Creating Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites is compassionate, and the need is clear.
Portlanders understand that homelessness is complicated. They understand that we need to build systems of care that connect people to the services they need to get off and stay off the streets.
But we have to acknowledge the fact: rampant unsanctioned homeless camps in parks, greenspaces, public right of ways and elsewhere create real and significant public safety, public health and livability issues for everyone in our community.
It is untenable. I am asking you today to work with us. Help us create a system that will allow us to recover our public spaces and connect people to the services they need to get off and stay off the streets.
Ask the governor, the legislature, the county and others to work with us on the plan we are moving forward on today.
To be successful moving forward, we need to acknowledge that the current system isn’t working as effectively as it should. There are successes, but ultimately too many people are failed by the status quo – both homeless individuals and the public at large.
Can we acknowledge that? And can we work together to guild a system that will work. This press conference is about one strategy that I believe shows tremendous promise.
We can both create more affordable housing options and provide immediate services to those who are struggling to survive on the streets. Our collective goal should be to eliminate unsanctioned, unsheltered camping in Portland—and we cannot wait any longer.
Click here for additional information on Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites