Under fire from inside and outside City Hall for his sweep of campsites from Portland sidewalks, Mayor Charlie Hales held a meeting today to discuss housing for homeless families and mentoring programs for street kids.
For the past three weeks, Hales and the Portland Police Bureau have conducted a crackdown on sidewalk camping—a sweep aimed at street kids and protesters, but which has expanded to include longtime homeless camps under highway bridges.
This afternoon, Hales met with a group including two of his harshest critics—City Commissioner Nick Fish and Street Roots executive director Israel Bayer—to talk about expanding homeless services.
Hales' spokesman Dana Haynes said the mayor's office scheduled its third homelessness task force meeting last week as it began conducting the sidewalk sweeps. (UPDATE, 6:30 pm: Sources confirm a Mercury report that Fish was invited late this morning.)
It was also attended by representatives from the Housing Bureau and local nonprofits.
"The meeting was very informational," says Haynes. "A lot of ideas were thrown up at him, and he threw some back. Nothing policy-wise came out of it."
Bayer tells WW ideas discussed at the meeting included mentoring and job programs for homeless teens, as well as more emergency resources funded by other governments.
Hales held a press conference Aug. 9 where he pledged to increase funding for shelters, an idea that's been met with some skepticism. Haynes says today's meeting has helped change Hales' thinking.
"The mayor, as he talks to people, is getting less and less enthralled with the notion of shelters, because they don't serve families, and they don't serve women well," Haynes says. "As opposed to rental assistance or price modification on housing. He's sort of saying, shelters do one thing, but let's not think of them as a panacea."