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Critics of city's 2018 ban on car camping on city streets praise pilot project, which will allow a maximum of five sites, each with three vehicles, and overseen by Just Compassion of East Washington County.

PMG PHOTO BY PETER WONG - Megan Cohen, left, and Alexis Ball explain details of the Safe Parking Pilot Program at a Beaverton City Council meeting April 9.Beaverton is moving toward a safe-parking pilot project that will enable some people to get off the streets while they try to obtain permanent housing.

The one-year project, which the City Council reviewed April 9, drew support from critics of last year's council action to ban car camping on city streets.

Among those critics were students and teachers from Beaverton and Sunset high schools and the city's own Human Rights Advisory Commission, which went on record opposing the ban that the council adopted on a 4-1 vote on June 12.

"I am glad we are creating a program where they can have a place to stay and get access to programs that can get them out of that spot," said Tonia Cottrell, a commission member.

She referred to recent findings by Kimberly Repp, Washington County's epidemiologist, that evictions result in several personal stress that can lead to suicide.

The council also heard from students and two teachers — Rita Morgan of Beaverton High School, and faculty adviser for Club Hope, and Beth Merrill of Sunset High School — who spoke out against last year's ban at three council meetings.

The Beaverton district has led Oregon in the number of students who report they lack permanent stable housing, although a fraction (108) of the 2,236 so far this school year are considered "unsheltered."

Reyna Ayala, now a sophomore at Beaverton High School, was among those students who spoke out.

"We feel this is a significant step in the right direction to address our concerns we brought up in testimony last June," she said. "It speaks volumes that the city of Beaverton is overseeing the project but putting trust in Just Compassion."

Just Compassion of East Washington County, which operates Beaverton's severe-weather shelter from November through March, will conduct background checks of participants under a $30,000 contract with the city. The group also will enforce rules — participants must sign agreements to abide by them — and connect participants with resources and housing, with the eventual goal of permanent shelter.

The maximum permitted stay is four months, although it can be extended if housing is imminent. There is a 30-day probationary period for participants.

Mayor Denny Doyle said last year that the project, modeled on Eugene's 2-decade-old program, would take effect after city staff and others came up with details.

The project will allow a maximum of five sites, dispersed throughout the city. The city, Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District, and a church have offered to play host to three of them.

The sites were not disclosed, although Doyle said police know where they are.

Each site will allow a maximum of three vehicles, which must be operational and have current registration. Participants will have access to portable restrooms and hand-washing stations, pod storage and garbage removal. The city budget set aside $12,200 for the portable restrooms and pod storage.

"I had been opposed," Beaverton resident David Marcus Duncan said. Although he said he still had concerns, "after listening to all of them, I have changed my mind."

"Staff can allay some of your concerns," Doyle responded. "This is a pilot, and we are going to do it right."

In addition to the severe-weather shelter, which has now operated for three seasons, Beaverton also is a participant in Family Promise of Beaverton. Under that program, which began last year, the city and participating agencies — mostly churches — provide temporary shelter for families while children attend school and parents obtain access to services and seek permanent housing.

Counting those and the city's efforts to promote subsidized housing for low-income people, the current Beaverton city budget set aside more than $2 million.

"None of us thinks the Safe Parking Program is the solution. It is a tool," Councilor Marc San Soucie said.

"There are a lot of things the city has to do to help people who are in desperate circumstances. We have done some of them, we are continuing to do some of them, and we are looking to identify still more."

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