Multnomah County leaders demand 'housing, not warehousing'
Mobilized under the banner of "housing, not warehousing," Multnomah County leaders took aim at the homelessness policies of the White House — and opponents much closer to home.
County Chair Deborah Kafoury denounced local "rich and powerful interests" who seek to "dehumanize" those sleeping on the streets by removing them from the central city.
"These out of sight, out of mind tactics are cruel, they are immoral and ultimately they don't work," Kafoury said during a Wednesday, Sept. 25 press conference at Street Roots, 211 N.W. Davis St. "The only answer to homelessness is housing."
It was a barely-veiled rebuke of the push to convert the never-used Wapato Jail in far North Portland into a community wellness center, a seemingly perennial proposal that most recently reanimated in a video posted by The Silent Partner marketing agency a few weeks ago.
That idea seems unlikely to gain political traction. Instead, Kafoury highlighted the work on the county's newly-purchased property at 333 S.W. Park Ave., noting that "at least half" of the dollars needed to renovate the facility have been located.
As for the ongoing operating costs? "I have no doubt that the funding will be available once we have determined what programming is going to occur," Kafoury said.
Commissioners Jessica Vega Pederson and Susheela Jayapal made their support tangible by attending the press conference, as did representatives from Business for a Better Portland, Native American Youth and Family Center, JOIN, p:ear, Human Solutions, Transition Project and others.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump said his administration would issue an environmental violation to San Francisco for polluting the ocean with hypodermic needles. The San Francisco Chronicle called the notion "bizarre," noting that the city's drains have grates to prevent waste escaping.
In Portland, Central City Concern senior director Karen Kern touted CCC's 27 buildings and roughly 2,100 housing units while also addressing her own long-term recovery from addiction and homelessness.
"Today you see me, 25 years ago I was invisible. I was invisible because I made people uncomfortable," she said, "because they saw me as a problem."
Street Roots vendor Dan Newth said he sleeps in a tent every night. He's tried living in a mass shelter, but his PTSD won't let him relax.
He pointed to a recent joint study by Portland State University that shows 38,000 people in the metro area are homeless each year — far more than the numbers generated by local Point In Time counts, which are federally mandated but known for their problematic methodology.
Newth said: "People turn away from people experiencing homelessness because they don't know how to help them."
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