The Libbytown Neighborhood Association feels strongly that, as a welcoming city, each neighborhood should contribute its fair share in hosting shelter space for vulnerable populations. We believe that this may best be done via a task force of citizens, stakeholders, city staff, homeless advocates, consultants and others in the community who can present a broad set of considerations to solve the problem of how and where to site shelters.

We commit to hosting our fair share of homeless and other services, and we urge all of Portland’s neighborhoods to join together to address the issue in an appropriate and compassionate manner: First, to commit to helping the most vulnerable. Secondly, to install an open and participatory process to select locations for smaller shelters that are safe for those seeking services and equitable to those communities that would provide it. A 150-bed facility is simply beyond the capacity of any single Portland neighborhood.

An open and participatory public process should make the decision of shelter placement a matter of partnership between city officials and the people of Portland. We urge the City Council to convene a task force to determine the best number, location(s), services and size for shelter facilities, and to foster citizen consent; to be carried out within a given time frame.

While we applaud city officials for reconsidering the original 200-bed proposal in favor of a slightly scaled-back model, we still see ample room for improvement to the plan and to the process.

The current proposal – to construct a shelter of up to 150 beds somewhere else in Portland – puts the cart before the horse. It is a disappointment that this model is being proposed without due consideration or input from Portland residents outside of City Council meetings and before an available land parcel is identified. Without an actual site selection, public input is nothing but an abstract exercise. It is premature and improper to make any kind of decision about what size shelter meets both the needs of our homeless population and the neighborhood context. This is not a process that should be rushed, as it is a legacy decision that will affect this city, and state, for decades to come.

We urge city officials to give strong consideration to an authentic scatter site model – which is preferred by both the homeless population and the surrounding communities. We also urge city officials to take a broader view on what resources, human and physical, are available.

We understand that the current shelter at Oxford Street is inadequate to meet the needs of our most vulnerable population and that it has placed great strain on the residents of Bayside. We stand in solidarity with Bayside. That neighborhood is providing more than its fair share of homeless services. We believe that more can be done in the short term, to forge partnerships, utilize temporary emergency overflow sites and correct external environmental conditions (such as improved lighting and traffic flows). What we do not want is to transfer an undue burden to a new location. Instead, we seek a fully considered, equitable and sustainable model.

The Libbytown Neighborhood Association believes that Portland is a welcoming city, but that does not mean we welcome bad policies or poorly executed projects. We have an opportunity to adopt a sheltering approach that addresses the homeless as individuals in need of safe and accessible services, and the communities that support them as neighbors and partners.

The Libbytown Neighborhood Association is proud to be part of a community solution, and we appreciate the contribution that Florence House, Logan Place and Shalom House make to our area. The smaller scale and the targeted client model are appropriate for providing housing, shelter and services to those in need. However, we believe that no neighborhood should be asked to exceed its capacity to do so.

A diverse task force would provide a citywide solution that leverages the collective wisdom of all of our communities and has a far better chance of winning consensus because it is the right thing to do, rather than simply being “not in my backyard.”

 


Comments are not available on this story.