Arguments over the location of homeless camps and shelters are a perennial feature of Portland life. But rarely have the fights been as loud as they were this month.
On Sept. 1, Mayor Charlie Hales is poised to sweep the remaining homeless people out of the sprawling camps along East Portland's Springwater Corridor—a site that ranks among the largest concentrations of tents in the nation.
It's not clear where people can go. Between the start of 2016 and mid-October, Multnomah County will have added more than 460 shelter beds, more than in any year in the past decade, say county officials. Yet that doesn't cover the nearly 1,900-bed shortfall the county reported last year.
Local officials are publicly squabbling over a few new ideas for large-scale shelters and organized camps—all demanding the same limited resources, all of them with vocal opponents. Meanwhile, smaller-scale shelters are provoking less backlash—and actually opening.
Advantages: Real estate developer Homer Williams is championing the site and promises to bring in private funding; it could offer social services at the same location.
Drawbacks: Two legal challenges to the location are already underway from business groups; the scale of the project has already shrunk to initially serving 100 people.
Advantages: Already built, complete with some beds; Multnomah County isn't doing anything else with it; has a champion in County Commissioner Loretta Smith.
Drawbacks: Operating expenses start at $136,000 a month; isolated and far from social services; opposed by County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury.
Advantages: Money is earmarked in the city budget for organized outdoor campsites like this empty lot in Lents; located near the Springwater Corridor.
Drawbacks: Environmental pollution at the site; furious Lentils want fewer homeless in the neighborhood.
Do good Multnomah
Capacity: 25 veterans
Advantages: Welcomed by neighbors.
Advantages: Came at a critical moment as a downtown shelter space closed.
Disadvantages: Possibly temporary.
Gresham Women's Shelter
Capacity: 90 single women and domestic violence victims
Opening: Sept. 8
Capacity: 120 women or people in couples
Where have homeless people aleady gone?
The official sweep of the Springwater Corridor is slated for Sept. 1. But for the past six weeks, Multnomah County has been helping homeless people move from the trail to new places to sleep. These are the minimum numbers county officials could confirm at press deadlines.
8: Moved to live with family in another city through the "ticket home" program
14: Moved to Hansen Shelter in the Gateway neighborhood
41: Moved to motels, permanent homes or other shelter