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Shelters built at Dignity Village. (photo by David Hull via WikiCommons)
By The Skanner News
Published: 13 May 2020

North Portland neighborhood associations have banded together to take the lead on developing a new strategic approach to address the homelessness crisis in the city. Leaders of several neighborhood associations collaborated and compromised to develop a proposal that can achieve neighborhood buy-in throughout Portland.

In a statement released Tuesday, the NA's say they are incredibly grateful to the volunteer organizations that help and serve people living in camps. They say the city’s project to establish three organized emergency outdoor shelters is a good model, but must be expanded dramatically.

"These efforts are meaningful, but they only scratch the surface of the problem," the statement continued.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the homelessness crisis,” said Tom Hickey, chair of the Bridgeton Neighborhood Association. “Portland’s leaders, neighborhoods and service providers must work together in new ways to build the community that all residents deserve.”

Neighborhood associations make the following recommendations:

Short-term actions

  • The city should create more safe, sanctioned camping locations to temporarily ease the current crisis like the three campsites recently created in the inner East Side.
  • Deliver additional sanitation and health-safety materials to sanctioned campsites.
  • Expedite permitting for the private effort at the Wapato facility.

Long-term actions

Develop safe, legally sanctioned, managed camps throughout the city modeled on the successful Kenton Women’s Village and Dignity Village.

Camps should:

  • Accommodate tent as well as car/RV camping.
  • Provide managed self-governance.
  • Provide access to social services.
  • Offer transition services to permanent housing.

Ongoing actions both short- and long-term

  • The city should clear all campsites from parks, waterways and public paths as well as camps where illegal activity has been documented.
  • Every neighborhood in all sextants should identify one or more sites within its boundaries suitable for a managed camp.

The University Park, Overlook, Bridgeton and Arbor Lodge neighborhood associations have endorsed this new strategy to help Portland’s homeless residents and neighborhoods. They now are working with neighborhood associations, leaders and nonprofits throughout Portland to build support for this approach.

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