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Meeting Over Southeast Portland Homeless Shelter Turns Ugly: “We Have a Meth and Theft Problem”

“The thought of having to hose down urine off the sidewalk at 10 am is not appealing.”


Opponents of a new homeless shelter planned for Southeast Foster Road booed Mayor Ted Wheeler and other local officials Monday night, complaining that the shelter would bring crime and squalor to their neighborhoods.

The homeless shelter, announced next week, is planned for a vacant grocery store on Southeast Foster Road and 61st Avenue in the Mount Scott-Arleta neighborhood.

Wheeler and Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury held a public meeting on the project at a Foster Road union hall last night. Residents were given one-week notice of the meeting, and have no vote in whether the shelter goes in or not. When that was confirmed, the crowd started booing Wheeler.

"We don't have a police precinct near," said Sam Neibi, a local resident. "We have a meth and theft problem here. If we have to host this thing, then give us the infrastructure we need."

Mason Layman, who owns a business near the Willamette Center, came out in opposition, urging neighbors to fight before it is too late. "My business has suffered crime, drug use, and theft, our businesses [in the building] have filed multiple reports with [police] and TriMet, that were no use. We are artists and it has made us become unsocial and unable to trust anyone we don't know near the building."

Local dance studio owner Alex Krebs put it more bluntly: "The thought of having to hose down urine off the sidewalk at 10 am is not appealing."

Wheeler said the neighborhood was selected because it needs a shelter: 22 percent of the city's homeless people live in Southeast Portland between the Willamette River and 82nd Avenue—more people living on the streets than in downtown and Old Town. (This sentence has been corrected to clarify an ambiguity in Wheeler's description.)

The mayor said he would consider raising the barriers to entry at the shelter in response to neighborhood concerns. He also reiterated that anyone using the shelter would need a reservation with the nonprofit Transition Projects.

"Its not fun to be homeless in Portland," he added.

Attendees of the hearing repeatedly objected to the site's location—it's near three schools and several bars and breweries. One speaker pointed out that people who use the shelter would have less than 50 feet to go before they found a place to get alcohol.

"The most innocent among us are children," said a woman named Amber, "and I don't think you could have tried harder to find a worse location." Jay Collins echoed: "The complete lack of regard for our community and children is apparent by the lack of communication by the city."

There were also supporters of the plan. One man wore a shirt that simply said "Jesus was Homeless" and another man held a sign saying "Foster Road Hate Free Zone."

"I know its scary to see change," said resident Haven Wheelock, "but I have seen the beauty that happens when these people get help."

Plans call for the shelter to open in late summer or early fall 2018.