Portland extends homeless emergency for 1 year

Portland faces homelessness crisis (KATU News photo).png

The Portland City Council voted Wednesday to extend the city's homeless emergency for one more year, citing a need for more affordable housing options and services for the homeless community.

The vote comes amid a large sweep of the Springwater Corridor Trail, which was home to more than 500 homeless individuals earlier this year.

Homeless advocates have feared for their safety, as there were only about 50 open shelter beds when the sweeps began Sept. 1.

“We’re trying a lot of things and quite a number of them are working, but a number of them need to be modified to work better,” Hales said at Wednesday’s council meeting. “We are spending people’s money – carefully – but we are spending a lot of money.”

Declaring the housing emergency also lets the city waive zoning codes to convert city-owned buildings into shelters. Most recently, the city opened nearly 200 beds at the old Multnomah County Sheriff's Office building called the Hansen Shelter.

The city has accepted a proposal from a private developer to turn Terminal 1, a surplus building, into a 400-bed shelter.

The idea of converting warehouses to shelters for the homeless has worked in other states, like Texas. Haven for Hope operates in San Antonio and officials have called it a great success.

"Homelessness in downtown San Antonio has decreased 80 percent since we've been open. We are just at the edge of downtown so we've attracted a lot of individuals from the street near downtown," Haven for Hope President Kenny Wilson said.

A group of NW Portland developers has filed an appeal with the state land use board to overturn the city's decision to turn Terminal 1 into a shelter.

A local attorney is suing the city, saying sewer ratepayers paid for the facility and city law bans using sewer money for anything but sewer projects.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off