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Homeless camp opens in Lents without city approval

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KOIN 6 NEWS - This new homeless camp for women was set up on Mother's Day at Southest 93rd Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard.Community activists who say local leaders are not doing enough to address the homeless crisis built a camp for women on Portland-owned property in Southeast Portland on Mother's Day.

"We announced a state of emergency for houselessness in October. It is now May. We have done nothing to move forward on this issue,” said Lisa Lake of Advocacy 5 during a Monday morning press conference at the camp at Southeast 93rd Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard in the Lents neighborhood.

The camp has six tents on elevated platforms, a portable tent trailer, and a portable toilet. Lake said it was reserved for vulnerable women who are regularly abused while living on the streets.

Chad Stover, the livability project manager in Mayor Charlie Hales' office, said the camp is not sanctioned by the city. Although Hales has eased restrictions for camping on unused city property, Stover said the camp's supporters did not follow the process for setting up a city-sanctioned one.

"We're looking for places to house vulnerable women and have a long list of possible sites, but this is not one," said Stover, who showed up to watch the press conference.

According to Stover, the property is owned by the Portland Development Commission and is being sold to a private developer, Lisac Brothers Construction, for $500,000. Stover said the mayor's office told camp supporters they would not sanction the project during a meeting around four weeks ago.

Lake said the camp would move if the property owners asks it to leave, although some supporters say she not move without the city finding a new location, like it has for the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp.

Also speaking at the press conference was Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, who said he supported the camp and thought it could be duplicated throughout the region. Gamba said his City Council also declared a housing state of emergency several weeks ago.

"This is a great example" of one approach to the homeless crisis," Gamba said.

Portland mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone also spoke in support of the camp at the press conference. Iannarone, a Portland State University urban researcher, said she helped build the camp on Monday and called it a model that should be used in other neighborhoods.

"It's not a permanent solution but a temporary model for the kind of policies I support. Top-down solutions are not keeping up with the demand," Iannarone said.

In a Monday morning email announcing the press conference, Iannarone said the camp was built and supported by Advocacy 5 and their community partners: Boots On the Ground PDX, PDX Outreach Nursing, Rose City Backpacks of Hope, Forgotten Realms, Free Hot Soup, Houseless Community Builders, Right 2 Dream Too, The ReBuilding Center, and the Village Coalition.

According to the press release, "The purpose of the project is to provide immediate support for houseless women who are routinely and heinously sexually assaulted. The sanctuary will house small groups of women with a live-in host and overnight security. Residents will abide by a code of conduct and observe good neighbor policies. The goal of the project is to provide emergency shelter for women and to help them transition into permanent housing within 9 months."