On Dec 13, the city adopted recommendations from a committee of 24 diverse groups called Safe Access For Everyone. The recommendations provide alternatives on how Portland should deal with "vagrancy," in the downtown corridor, and in the Lloyd Center District. Read Mayor's press release.
Street Roots strongly disagrees with certain aspects of the recommendations.
The proposal made the Winners section of the Willamette Week saying, "Yes, the city's homeless won some love with Mayor Tom Potter's announcement Monday that City Hall's new livability/street nuisance initiative includes a center open during the day for them. But we're cheering just as loudly for the initiative's plan to open public restrooms downtown. That late-night walk from the bar to the car just got a little easier."
How is not being allowed to sit on a sidewalk after you have no place to sleep (camping ordinance, curfews in parks, park exclusions, etc., etc.) is a winner is beyond me. But I'm in agreement - the restrooms are a great thing for all of us.
The saddest thing about this whole ordeal is how the media has not really done any kind of homework. The SAFE committee packaged the recommendations, and the ordinance for the Mayor's office, the Mayor's office packaged the SAFE recommendations for the media, and the media just published it. No historical perspective about how these same laws have utterly failed in other cities, the costs involved, and the impact on individuals who will be moved along. None of the stories included a quote from someone experiencing homelessness, much less that no homeless persons were present in the SAFE workgroup.
S. Renee Mitchell's column in the Oregonian on Dec 13 says, "Portland's latest homeless initiative, called Street Access for Everyone (SAFE), is not intended to make downtown more attractive for people who spend money in the retail shops and restaurants, work in the high-rise office buildings or pay the costly rents. It's about us being more tolerant of the grungy and disconnected youth, the mentally ill adults and the illegal immigrants who hang out downtown and at Lloyd Center with their dogs, addictions and various forms of social dysfunction."
In the Mayor's press release last week he says, "There will be a temptation by some to see this as a way to target our homeless, or remove unwelcome groups from high visibility areas. Instead, what these reforms will do is ensure that our city remains a diverse, urban environment by not forcing anyone to leave its sidewalks or streets,"
Unfortunately, nobody has highlighted the fact that the ordinance as recommended by the committee states, "Enact a “High Pedestrian Traffic Area” ordinance that prohibits anyone from sitting or lying on a public sidewalk between 7 am and 9 pm in defined High Pedestrian Traffic Areas. Violators will be warned, and could receive a non-criminal citation in West Side Community Court, with the possibility of fines up to $250, community service and/or referral for appropriate services/treatment. The initial affected areas with be the “Fareless Square” in downtown Portland and the Lloyd District. Other districts may apply for inclusion."
Portland has around 4,000 people on the streets on any given night. The day center included in the package deal will have the ability to serve around 150 individuals. The restrooms are great, but I'm still skeptical on how the city is going to build enough benches for the remaining 3,850 people who are homeless once the new day access center is filled up.
It just doesn't add up.
News stories and editorials over the past week.