The Big Number: 16
That's the percentage of Portland-area voters who told a pollster they want to "enforce anti-camping laws to stop homelessness" as a top priority.
That finding comes from a survey of probable November 2020 voters by GBAO Strategies, a Washington, D.C., polling firm. It's a remarkably low percentage of voters in the Portland metro area who selected a policing-based approach to dealing with homeless people. (Twice as many voters preferred increasing mental health services and an affordable housing supply.)
The results arrive as the Portland City Council debates a contract renewal for the company that sweeps out homeless camps. Advocates say public sentiment doesn't justify renewing the contract—or moving vulnerable people from place to place.
"Our policy is driven by the people who complain the most," says Kaia Sand, executive director of Street Roots, the newspaper sold by houseless vendors. "They're not in the majority. In that way, it's quite promising."
It's also another data point suggesting that area voters are receptive to the work of HereTogether, a coalition championing a 2020 ballot measure to fund social services for homeless people. HereTogether paid for the September poll. (Last week, WW exclusively obtained a copy of the presentation on polling data that HereTogether has been handing out to supporters.)
"There is incredibly high concern for the increasing visibility of the homeless crisis," says Angela Martin, executive director of HereTogether. "The fact that less than 20 percent of respondents think sweeps and other punitive enforcement measures are the answer says that almost everyone agrees solutions start with caring."