I laud City Councilor Brian Batson’s Nov. 3 op-ed for not simply saying “no” to a proposal in his district, but offering an alternative. However, I find his New York City research to be unconvincing.

New York has a homeless population almost the size of the entire population of Portland, and a geographic area over four times the size of Portland. Good ideas may be universal, but scale matters. The definition of a “large shelter” in New York and in Portland is not the same, and neither is the scope of their budgets.

Batson promotes New York’s use of a central intake facility. The homeless services center proposed in Portland would be such a facility. We already have a “multishelter system” (the women’s shelter, the teen shelter, the “wet” shelter, the family shelter), a point that’s often lost in the current debate. And nothing about the current proposal undermines the ability to build further small shelters in the future. However, the goal of this facility will be getting people out of homelessness – not finding them the best shelter in which to settle.

Batson promotes independence in our homeless population, while also calling for the shelter to be sited downtown for access to services. Our downtown (specifically Bayside) is overwhelmed by people seeking services and predators seeking to exploit their vulnerabilities. That cluster must be broken for the health of all.

Moving the shelter a short bus ride away, providing critical services in a safe, protected environment and promoting independence by asking clients to utilize an easy bus service for further resources are not reasons to kill a strong proposal.

A purpose-built facility will enable better outcomes for people experiencing homelessness, and begin to restore balance and safety to our peninsula neighborhoods. I’m not convinced that anything in a city with a population of over 8 million, when applied to our city of 70,000, argues otherwise.

Sean Kerwin

Portland