The results of a poll shared with WW on Wednesday afternoon show that 8 in 10 Portlanders support the most contentious parts of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s homelessness plan that he laid out last week: massive sanctioned campsites with capacity for up to 500 people and a phased-in ban on unsanctioned camping across the city.
The poll, commissioned by the Portland Business Alliance and conducted by DHM Research, surveyed 400 Portlanders from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1.
The most telling numbers: 79% of respondents strongly support or somewhat support a camping ban, and 82% of respondents support building massive sanctioned campsites with sanitary services and security to support up to 500 people each.
Seventy-four percent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat support city officials and police forcing people to move if they refuse to.
These two parts of the plan, in particular, have been met with fury by housing advocates and some members of the houseless population. More than 15 homeless and formerly houseless Portlanders spoke at a town hall yesterday hosted by Street Roots to voice their concerns and fears about the campsites and the camping ban, calling them inhumane and unsafe.
Phoenix Oaks, a trans man, told Wheeler and City Commissioner Dan Ryan: “My concern with the mass camps is that trans and nonbinary people will be really, really unsafe there....Criminalizing us because we don’t want to live in a hostile or dangerous environment is not the answer.”
Two other questions in the PBA poll stand out because they speak to the city’s so far failed attempts to secure pledges of funding from other government entities.
One question asked: “Some Multnomah County officials have said they will not support providing funds to create and staff outdoor designated camping sites. Do you think that Multnomah County should help pay to build and operate outdoor designated camping areas?”
Sixty-six percent of respondents said yes, 18% said no.
This question gets at two major concepts: First, that the city likely needs help from the county to build these sites. And second, that current County Chair Deborah Kafoury has given no indication she’ll help fund them—though, in so many words, she dismissed the plan in an email last week to Wheeler and City Council members.
Another question asked: “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Metro homeless services funds should be sent to counties based on the size of the homeless population rather than the total number of residents.”
Seventy-eight percent of respondents said yes and 10% said no.
At issue here is the Metro supportive housing services measure, a ballot initiative passed by voters in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties in 2020 that taxes businesses and high-income earners and distributes those funds to the three counties to combat homelessness.
Currently, those funds are distributed based on a projection of the portion of household tax revenue brought in by each county (not based on total population, as the poll incorrectly states). In recent emails obtained by WW between mayoral staffers and Metro officials, the two offices have sparred with one another over the mayor’s suggestion that Metro change the allocation equation so that counties get dollars based on the percentage of the region’s homeless people they have.
Because Multnomah County has a significantly higher portion of the region’s counted homeless population—almost 80% of it, according to the latest count—it would receive a much larger portion of the tax dollars than the 45% it currently gets.
Metro officials have responded frostily to the idea.