I was homeless in Portland four times over an eight-year period. The claim that the only way to provide wrap-around services to unhoused people is in a mega-shelter five miles out of town is ludicrous.

All support services are within a mile of each other on the peninsula, in Bayside, Parkside and downtown. These services include General Assistance, the Opportunity Alliance, the VA, the Portland Community Free Clinic, Greater Portland Health, and the needle exchange. Every other shelter in Portland will still be located in town, right near all of these services. Four smaller shelters (Florence House, the Teen Shelter, Milestone and Preble Street’s new Wellness Shelter) will still be operating in town, in addition to the city’s large family shelter in Bayside. This model already has service providers coming to the shelters to meet residents.

Why duplicate these services on the edge of town? It is about removing “undesirables” rather than better serving them. The proposed shelter will create barriers for unhoused people to access public spaces. It forces service providers to split services between in-town shelters and Riverside Street.

Yes, the city’s Oxford Street Shelter is woefully inadequate and has been for a long time. We should follow the effective smaller shelter model used by our nonprofit shelter providers. The mega-shelter and its location were wrong decisions three years ago and still are!

Please join me in voting for Option A to support our existing shelters and new, smaller shelters.

William Higgins, Jr.

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