When we last covered Portland’s homeless crisis, a lawsuit was in the works against Mayor Hales and the city for refusing to enforce anti-camping laws. The Portland Business Alliance, the Overlook and Pearl District Neighborhood Associations, the Cartlandia food truck pod, and others calling themselves Safe & Livable Portland filed a complaint in Multnomah County Circuit Court in April challenging the legality of Mayor Hales’s Safe Sleep camping policy. Since then, a few things have happened but very little has changed.

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2016 Lawsuit Status

 

The lawsuit asked the court to put an end to the growth of widespread camping all over the city that has been tolerated since Hales’s safe sleep policy began in February. It addressed the ways that simply letting the homeless camp wherever they want is in no way mitigating the issue. A portion of the complaint reads:

“Telling people to sleep on the streets is not humane. In fact, it is the opposite of humane; as recent events have shown, the Mayor’s camping policy has resulted in violence, unhealthy conditions, and pain and suffering for our most vulnerable residents.”

That lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice in mid-July by Multnomah County Judge Marilyn Litzenberger because it did not clearly state in what way the camping directly affected the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were given the opportunity to refile an amended complaint in the weeks following the dismissal.

While Attorney Conable claimed his clients could offer several examples, they eventually dropped the suit after Mayor Hales’s officially lifted Safe Sleep  in August. The Safe Sleep Policy, which allowed camping in groups of six or fewer between the hours of 9 PM and 7 AM without interference by law enforcement had quickly been misinterpreted as a new law by homeless residents, many of whom ignored the guidelines and stayed put.

Now, Mayor Charlie Hales is taking some kind of action. Sweeping plans for Springwater Corridor have been given the green light for September 1st. The corridor is to be off limits to campers following the sweep. Efforts to gradually relocate the homeless are already underway, despite a shortage of shelter beds. There are currently an estimated 500 campers along the 21-mile path.

Passive tolerance of homelessness fosters a nonchalant attitude toward law enforcement and attracts more crime and homelessness. Recent events put things into perspective.

 

Dangers of Widespread Homelessness

 

Stabbings, fires, and even bombs…widespread homelessness does not bring out the best in people. Homeless residents and their non-homeless counterparts are responsible for a number of shocking crimes.

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Recently, an East Portland man was arrested for tossing a homemade explosive under an RV housing transients. Jeremy Kidwell, 46, tossed the bomb in the Centennial neighborhood and was arrested and charged with manufacturing a destructive device, possession of a destructive device, and first degree arson. He has no criminal history prior to the arrest and is a husband and father.

The city’s relaxed attitude toward transients attracts more transients from neighboring states as they are allowed to use the resources allotted to Portlanders who have fallen on hard times. This further exacerbating the problem, along with the elected officials who have let all this slide. If the city is serious about helping the homeless and ending the crisis, there needs to be a way to identify who is truly a resident, who is truly in need, and who truly wants help.

 

Proposed Solutions

 

Three shelters are about to open in NE/ SE Portland and Gresham to address the rising homeless population. Multnomah County City Chair Deborah Kafoury is all for turning the Hansen Building at NE 122nd Avenue and Glisan Street into a shelter that can accommodate 200 homeless. There are a few problems with the scenario: the building is unsuitable to house anyone, being full of black mold and asbestos. It is also a few blocks away from an elementary school.

Two more viable solutions are being weighed. Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith has called for the Wapato Jail to function as a shelter. The facility sits empty each year costing taxpayers half a million dollars to maintain it after it cost nearly $60 million to open. It can comfortably house over 500 residents. Kafoury is completely against this option on the grounds that the facility is too far away from Downtown Portland/ Gresham where the homeless would be able to attend job interviews and the price tag on fully operating Wapato.

Following an example set by a San Antonio, Texas facility, developers Homer Williams and Dike Dame proposed a long-term solution for Portland’s homeless population: turning the unused warehouse in Terminal 6 into a homeless campus. The campus would provide healthcare facilities, drug and alcohol treatment programs, and sanitation would all coexist with the shelter to get people the help they need to become productive members of society once more.

In the event that you become injured in the Portland Metro Area, Attorney Richard Rizk is at your service. Call Rizklaw at (503) 245-5677.