It’s time for the City Council’s Health and Human Services Committee (consisting of Councilors Belinda Ray, Pious Ali and Brian Batson) to abandon the plan for a 150-bed emergency homeless shelter. The “mega-shelter” model is not appropriate anywhere in Portland, and it’s time for the city to go back to the drawing board and come up with something that will actually work.

Over the better part of a year, the city evaluated seven sites for this project, using nine metrics. The Barron Center site was the clear winner: It received a score of 40 out of 45 points. As we all know, this runaway best option for a large shelter turned out to be totally unworkable! So, why is anyone still bothering to pursue a large shelter? How will any other site in the city avoid the same insurmountable issues?

In the same evaluation, the County Way site, located on contaminated land behind the Cumberland County Jail, was ranked next to last, with 30 points. City staff noted several serious concerns with the site. Yet it is now the only one of the original seven still being considered. How is this a good process?

The city’s proposal to build a single 150-bed facility will create many of the same old problems in a new, less visible place – at the cost of millions to the taxpayers. I am happy to have my tax dollars go toward homeless services that are compassionate and effective, but I can’t understand how a 150-bed shelter can be successful anywhere in our small city.

At this point it really seems like the city’s main goal is just to get this problem away from the valuable real estate downtown, not to actually solve it.

This is totally unacceptable. The city leadership owes us better.

Rachel Taylor


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