Some Portlanders oppose homeless shelter expansion
Some Portland residents are speaking out against a proposal to loosen City Code restrictions about where homeless shelters and organized encampments can be sited.
As part of the proposed Street to Shelter Continuum project, the City Council is considering whether to waive zoning restrictions to make it easier to open up shelters for unhoused individuals in all parts of town. In some temporary cases, this would include areas around parks and open spaces.
Supporters say it will allow more humane shelter options. The final vote is scheduled for Wednesday, March 31.
But some worry that allowing individuals to camp around parks and open spaces would add to the city's sanitation and safety issues. A number of them spoke out against it on Sunday, March 28.
"We're pretty outraged that our city and county officials have made a decision that in order for us to help this homeless epidemic we need to surrender our parks," Southeast Portland resident Angela Todd said at the press conference. "And, we would like them to come together and propose better solutions for people who are out on the street."
Todd is co-chair of The Coalition to Save Portland, a "Political Action Committee fed up with the policies of appeasement that allow our [city's] livability to deteriorate," according to the group's Facebook page.
The group was also involved in a report that falsely accused Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty of rear-ending a car and driving away.
Todd said she was speaking as a concerned resident, not on behalf of the group.
Last week, the council proposed adding an amendment to the proposed plan to clarify parks, golf courses and most open spaces would not be intended sites for temporary shelters. Adjacent parking lots could still be used, however.
Critics said they believe changing the city code to allow camping in some areas won't change the addiction crisis or other problems that lead to homelessness.
One resident, T.J .Browning, read a statement from a 70-year-old neighbor who said Laurelhurst Park was unusable because of needles and human waste. The neighbor said even if folks aren't camping in the park, allowing camping on lots near parks and open spaces would continue to contribute to the problem.
Many of the critics said the federal government shares the blame for the homeless crisis by not putting enough funds toward low-income housing.
Members of the public can still comment on the proposed zoning change by testifying online. Portlanders have until Tuesday, March 30, to comment.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.
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