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Mayor Wheeler hints at positive changes in number of homeless, NE Portland due for cleanup

KATU file

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler expects people to be “pleased with the results” of the point-in-time homeless count, which will be released Monday.

The mayor spoke to KATU’s Steve Dunn during an interview for Your Voice Your Vote. He said he could not break the news until Monday, but he hinted at positive changes.

“I think people will be pleased to see that our concerted and collective efforts around shelter, housing, and services is paying off,” said Wheeler.

Mayor Wheeler told Dunn that they have spent $50 million over the past year in combination with the county on shelters, housing, and services for the homeless. Over the past 18 months, he says the city doubled the amount of shelter space.

“That means people who used to be sleeping by the freeway, under bridges, in doorways, they are now in shelter,” said Wheeler. “The good news there is that for those who need connection to services, mental health services, or addiction services, they are much more likely to get those services to get them off the street and keep them off the street.”

Additionally, some high profile homeless camps have found new homes in recent weeks. The Kenton Women’s Village opened last weekend giving 14 homeless women from North Portland a place to stay and recover. They will also have access to services. After multiple failed attempts at finding a new location, Right To Dream Too recently moved into a new spot by the Moda Center.

Despite some good news, homelessness does not appear to be an issue that will go away any time soon in Portland. Just ask the folks in the Lents neighborhood.

Those who live near the Springwater Corridor Trail say they have seen a big improvement compared to what it looked like last year when the city cleared out hundreds of campers for environmental reasons. Mayor wheeler said they will make a concerted effort to prevent something like that from happening again. However, they still see camps and report ongoing problems with homeless, including crime.

Homeless count numbers are expected to be released Monday.

NE Portland due for a cleanup, City Council dedicates funds to do so

Last week, Portland City Council approved an emergency ordinance to help cleanup inner Northeast Portland and parts of the central east side, and apparently take a proactive approach in minimizing the impact of Right To Dream Too’s new location.

Up to $90,000 will go to the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN) for their Clean Start PDX pilot project.

“[The] central east side especially has been dealing with livability issues they would argue are connected to a rise in homelessness due to the housing crisis,” said Adam Lyons, Executive Director of NECN. “Inner northeast is no exception and we've seen upticks, especially in Elliot, probably parts of Irvington, and I know the Lloyd district has been feeling an increase.”

NECN will partner with Central City Concern on the project to manage trash, biohazards, and graffiti that may be a result of homeless in the area. The grant money will pay for one full-time employee to clean and manage about one square-mile of inner Northeast Portland. Lyons says the Elliot Neighborhood initially came up with the idea as a proactive way to address livability issues.

“There is a natural relationship with camping and garbage because when you are on the street, maybe it's not your first priority to get rid of garbage and maybe you don't have the capability of doing it,” said Lyons. “We are hoping that teaming up with Central City Concern's program, which is a vocational training program for people who've experienced homelessness, that we are really solving multiple issues at once.”

Lyons says they hope to expand their program to other parts of Portland that could benefit from it, like Lents.

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