Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites


‘The Humanitarian Crisis of Our Lifetime’

One of the most challenging issues facing Portland today is our homeless crisis. It’s a main priority for my administration and a top concern for most Portlanders. Homelessness is a complex issue with many causes, requiring multiple workable and compassionate solutions to connect people to the services they need to get off and stay off the streets. 

According to the 2022 official point in time count, thousands of people are living unsheltered on our streets, and unsheltered homelessness in Portland increased by 50% from 2019 to 2022. Those who want affordable housing face years-long waiting lists. 

Quote: "We need that long-term affordable access to hosing, and in the near time, we have to acknowledge that people are waiting three-years plus in dangerous, squalid conditions [for housing]. That's not humane."
Watch KOIN Town Hall on Homelessness here.

Currently there are hundreds of unsanctioned camps spread out across virtually every neighborhood of our city, over a massive 146 square mile area. Due to the dispersed nature of the homeless population, there’s no way to provide the kind of consistent case management or follow-up required to successfully connect people to the services or shelter they need.   

Homeless Portlanders face incredible danger on the streets: 

Homelessness Public Safety Statistics

The status quo is not a compassionate response. The need for Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites is clear. Currently, more than 800 individual campsites exist across the City of Portland alone. People living in these sites are often isolated and lack basic services like running water, restrooms, showers, storage, trash service, regular communication with housing and health providers, protections from the elements, and are at risk of experiencing an overdose, violence, fires, and much more. Leaving vulnerable Portlanders to live outside in the elements in dangerous conditions poses issues to both the individual experiencing homelessness and the community. 

Leadership and Accountability

As Mayor, I’m working with partners locally and at every level of government to turn things around and offer a bold new direction for Portland. 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. 

Quote: "Mayor Ted Wheeler announced a multifaceted proposal Friday to address both the immediate concerns
Read the full Oregonian article: Portland City Council expresses near-unanimous support for aggressive efforts to reduce homelessness - oregonlive.com

Last fall, Commissioner Dan Ryan and I announced a ‘Five Resolution’ plan that was passed by Portland City Council who subsequently approved allocating $27M in unused funds from the city budget to begin quick implementation of these proposals. These resolutions serve as a roadmap for the revitalization of Portland, consisting of three building blocks:

Resolution Building Blocks

Central to this plan is developing Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites that will provide shelter, sanitary services, mental health, substance abuse recovery services, and access to other services for homeless Portlanders while they wait for long-term housing. 

This plan follows numerous homelessness-focused Emergency Declarations issued by Mayor Wheeler to help tackle the following issues: unsanctioned homeless camping near high crash corridors and safe routes to schools, fast-tracking the development of Commissioner Ryan’s Safe Rest Villages, and activating the Street Services Coordination Center (SSCC), an innovative centralized command structure to better manage how our homeless aid agencies work together. 

Why Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites?

Navigation outreach teams engage with dozens of homeless Portlanders during an average week. Those who outreach teams make contact with are offered an immediately available shelter bed, a personal ride to that shelter bed with their immediate belongings, complimentary storage for additional items, and other services.  

For the most part, homeless Portlanders we make contact with decline shelter offers for a variety of reasons. Many share concerns that congregate shelters may not accommodate their pets, allow for significant other to stay together, or they prefer the independence of sleeping in their own tent. We regularly hear from our Street Services Coordination Center team that those who may decline the offer for a congregate shelter may be more willing to accept the offer for a Temporary Alternative Shelter Site.

On the other hand, if everyone we made contact with accepted a shelter offer, we would quickly run out of space.  

We need places for unsheltered Portlanders to stay where they are provided safe shelter, sanitary services, mental health, substance abuse recovery services, and access to other services while they wait for long-term housing.  

It is not humane to leave Portlanders living on our streets in unsafe and often squalid conditions. Both the individuals left on the streets and our community at large suffer when we allow unsanctioned encampments to spread across Portland. We have found that unsheltered encampments almost always become unsafe. There are myriad reasons, but unchecked criminal activity, drug use, and/or lack of hygienic facilities contribute to the squalor in which our homeless neighbors are left to exist. These unsanitary and unsafe conditions can negatively impact established residences, businesses, schools, and other key infrastructure. 

About Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites 

Urban Alchemy CA Site
Photo of Urban Alchemy-Managed Shelter Site in CA

These sites will provide a compassionate service model that is informed by those with lived experience, including a safe, secure, and hygienic place for residents to meaningfully connect with services to access housing, mental health support, substance use disorder treatment and other critical resources provided by non-profit and county partners. The sites will be complementary to the existing shelter system and provide a desperately needed low-barrier option for houseless populations that are not using available shelter beds.

Site information: 

Initially, each site will have up to 150 pods and/or tents (for up to 200 people). City Council must approve a population increase after the first phase is developed. 

Site Services: 

  • Meals: Two per day, plus snack 

  • Restrooms and showers 

  • Laundry access 

  • Community space 

  • Pet area 

  • Storage 

  • Transit/Transportation 

  • Electricity (i.e., for phone charging) 

  • Wi-fi 

  • Perimeter fencing 

  • Regular trash collection and hazardous waste removal 

Service Provider:

These sites will be managed by a professional service provider with experience in managing large shelters. 

  • Service provider will manage 24/7 with approximately 1/15 staff/client ratio. 

  • Using a Built For Zero client-centered public health approach to guide clients through the continuum of care. 

  • Referral-based system through the City of Portland, no walk-ins allowed. 

  • To start, there will be no strict time limit regarding length of stay. 

  • Service provider will coordinate (with designated City staff) physical, behavioral, and mental health visits from Multnomah County staff and other partners. 

Key site rules: 

  • Alcohol and drugs cannot be consumed in common areas/public spaces. 

  • No cooking or fires are allowed. 


  • Weapons must be checked at the entrance (zero tolerance policy). 

  • If an individual needs to be excluded from a site because a person is a clear / present danger to themselves or others, removal options will include the PPB Behavioral Health Unit and Portland Street Response. 

Perimeter Area: 

  • 24/7 hotline staffed by service provider for complaints or questions about the site or perimeter issues. 

  • On-site service provider will monitor a 1,000 ft. perimeter surrounding the site 16 hours a day, every day - no drugs or camping. 

  • Trash cleanup in the 1,000 ft. perimeter (at least weekly; hazardous material removed immediately). 

  • Service provider will engage regularly with surrounding residents, clients, businesses, neighborhood associations, and Enhanced Service Districts. 


  • Parking for large camps will be limited. The ideal sites are serviced by transit. Parking by clients will not be allowed within 1,000 feet perimeter of camp. 

  • Sites may include RV / car options. 

Where will these sites be located?

Sites will be thoughtfully located across diverse geographic areas in the city. The goal is to have minimal impact on the surrounding communities while also locating near public transit. Conversations surrounding real estate are confidential for a variety of reasons, and until firm commitments are in place, we are unable to identify specific locations.  

For any potential site, the City of Portland will conduct extensive outreach to nearby residents and businesses. If you are a resident, business owner, or frequent visitor of a neighborhood where a temporary alternative shelter site may be located, we will do our best to reach out to you. We welcome concerns, comments, and ideas from all Portlanders. This is truly a community-wide effort and we want your partnership. 

Each site will feature a 1,000 ft. perimeter zone that will feature a camping ban and be regularly patrolled by contracted security services. A Good Neighbor Agreement will also be established with the surrounding neighborhoods and business districts. 

City staff will meet with surrounding neighborhood, businesses associations and other stakeholders to finalize a Good Neighbor Agreement. The service provider will contribute to and abide by this agreement, putting in place aforementioned policies to maintain a good relationship with surrounding areas.  

SE Gideon 'Triangle' Site

Map Detailing 1490 SE Gideon Street Lot

It's likely that a Temporary Alternative Shelter Site will be located at 1490 SE Gideon Street. The lot is situated in the Central East Side between the Brooklyn and Hosford-Abernathy neighborhoods. 

Urban Alchemy

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 the best fit to manage Portland’s Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites. Urban Alchemy already runs numerous sites in California and a congregate homeless shelter in Texas.  

Urban Alchemy will likely run more than one shelter site here in the City of Portland. They will manage site operations and security.

Community Conversations

Prior to signing the lease, Mayor Wheeler hosted two ‘Community Conversations,’ to provide opportunities for stakeholders and residents near the SE Gideon Street site to share their concerns, ask questions, engage with our service providers, and help develop a good neighbor agreement.  We continue to be in conversation with the community and future outreach updates will be shared here. 

Event Recordings:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

  • Why not just build affordable housing?

The Temporary Alternative Shelter Site plan is a housing first approach. We can prioritize the development of additional affordable housing while also providing safe temporary shelter to those currently living on our streets. Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites will serve as a bridge to more permanent options, preparing unsheltered Portlanders for safe and hygienic affordable housing while also providing them with critical access to services. 

Our city currently has a housing gap (meaning the number of affordable housing units we’d need to house everyone in need) of 20,000 units. The 5-resolution plan calls for greatly increasing the production of affordable housing. The city is working on various projects to meet this goal and will also be working in partnership with the State on the potential resources that the State Legislature is considering that will support affordable housing development. 

  • Will you meet with residents and/or business owners living in the neighborhoods where these sites plan to be located? 

Yes, and we encourage your participation. We will offer numerous ‘Community Conversations’ for each Temporary Alternative Shelter Site to get your input, answer questions, and work together to develop a Good Neighbor Agreement. If you’re located in a neighborhood where we plan to locate a site, we will deploy numerous outreach methods to help ensure you get connected. 

  • What population are the Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites designed to help? 

Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites are intended for use by the unsheltered adult population. 

The City of Portland's Street Services Coordination Center (SSCC) homeless outreach workers will be trained to match clients with best available services and shelter options, which include continuing to place Portlanders in the numerous existing shelter programs across the city. 

  • What is the response when someone in a Temporary Alternative Shetler Site is a clear and present danger to themselves or others?  

These sites will be staffed by trained service providers. If additional support is required—of if you currently witness someone experiencing a mental health emergency—we encourage you to contact Portland Street Response or the Portland Police Bureau’s Behavioral Health Unit, both of which can be reached by dialing 911. 

  • Will there be waiting lists for the sites? 

The SSCC will work with other service providers to determine operational details such as use of waiting lists.  

  • Will there be parking at these large camps? 

To reduce the need for parking, ideal sites will be located near public transit options. Parking will not be allowed within the 1,000 ft perimeter of each Temporary Alternative Shelter Site. 

  • What is the cost comparison between affordable housing and a TASS location? 

Without including the cost of social services, construction of one affordable housing unit costs on average $490,000.  

Without including the cost of social services, construction of one designated tent site is approximately $14,000. 

  • Will there be a time limit on how long people can stay? 

To begin, there will be no strict time limit on duration of stay. 

  • How have you engaged with unhoused people in the creation of this plan?  

Our service providers have spoken with over 600 homeless individuals. Service providers will be trained in evidence-based, anti-bias, and trauma-informed care methods.  

  • Will each camp site be indefinite?  

We are currently looking at a 3-year lifetime for each designated campsite.  

Additional Questions?

If you have further questions, please email my office directly at MayorWheeler@portlandoregon.gov.