KGW writes: Homelessness has such a significant impact on Portlanders’ daily lives that 34 percent are considering moving out of the city because of the issue, according to a new survey from DHM Research.
In addition, more than half of Portlanders are dissatisfied with the way the mayor and police bureau are addressing homelessness.
KGW commissioned the survey as part of a larger project about homeless tent camping in Portland. The project, Tent City, USA, launches Monday at 6 p.m. on KGW-TV and online at tentcitypdx.com.
DHM Research, a nonpartisan and independent research and consulting firm, surveyed 300 Portlanders representative of the city’s population, based on age, gender, race, education level and area in which they live. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percent.
The results show that homelessness is highly visible. The average Portlander sees someone living in a tent and someone panhandling five times a week. Residents said they see drug paraphernalia and human waste or urine more than twice a week.
We first became aware of Ann Sanderson when she successfullyled the fight against the failed street fee and we were pleased to hear that Ann was mounting a serious challenge to Amanda Fritz for her seat on city council. Recently we sat down with Ann to find out more about her campaign, her perspectives on Portland politics, and why she prefers “West Wing” to “House of Cards.”
Q: Why are you running for council?
Ann:I got involved in the political process a couple of years ago over the Street Fee. During that time I discovered a couple of things: One, that city government has a much bigger impact on our day to day lives that we think, and two, that this particular city council says they listen but doesn’t really hear us. This results in an agenda that reflects their own insular thinking and policies that don’t work for anyone.
During the fight against the Street Fee, we fought City Hall on behalf of small businesses and low income residents and we won. I want to be the voice of all the people of Portland on the issues that matter to them most, and make sure that their voices are heard. But the simple answer to why I’m running? I love Portland and want to help keep it the best place to live in the world.
Q: You led the fight against the Street Fee. Why aren’t you challenging Steve Novick?
Ann:There are so many issues facing Portland, and how we fund our critical street maintenance is just one of them. If I had run against Novick, the conversation would have likely been focused on that single issue. While Commissioner Novick should be made to defend his record on the failed Street Fee, I have already fought that battle and won. I believe I can be more effective by bringing some new ideas and common sense to the wide range of challenges facing Portland, not just this one issue, and that in order to implement them, we need three new people on council with fresh ideas.
Q: Last summer the North Park Blocks was overrun with illegal activity – drug dealing, public use of alcohol, destruction of property, intimidating panhandling, urination/defecation, prostitution and illegal sexual activity. Mayor Hales and Parks Commissioner Fritz ignored the problem until we started posting “park porn” photos. How would you have responded to that illegal activity?
Ann: We have a humanitarian crisis in our city and we need to address it. Every person on the streets is deserving of our compassion and help, and laws must be enforced for everyone’s safety. We cannot effectively deliver services and aid to people living on the streets if we don’t have a safe environment, and I take public safety very seriously. Other cities face similar problems in their urban cores, and with strong leadership and a collaborative approach, we can find new ideas and fresh thinking without the insular view of the current city hall.
Q: The North Park Blocks folks are not NIMBYs. We live and work among lots of people living in the neighborhood’s many transitional housing facilities. How can the city find a workable balance between compassion for the truly needy and maintaining safe and orderly public spaces for everyone to enjoy?
Ann: First we need to understand it’s not an either/or. The majority of homeless people are not engaged in criminal activity, but those who do are having a huge impact on the public’s ability to remain compassionate to the issue as a whole. We need to work hard to make sure that everyone who is houseless is found stable, permanent housing in the long term and safe transitional shelter in the short term. At no point is being houseless a free pass from obeying the law. It makes it unsafe for both the neighborhood and for the many more homeless who are struggling to get off the streets.
Q: Mayor Hales has declared “Safe Sleep Guidelines” that allow overnight camping on sidewalks. Your thoughts on that initiative?
Ann: Every day, in all parts of Portland, I see the homeless wrapped in blankets and huddled in doorways or pitching tents in public right of ways, and I am ashamed of my city. We are one of the most progressive, liberal, liveable cities in the country and we can’t do better than letting our fellow human beings sleep on the street? Sanctioning what is already happening, whether it be homeless camps or sleeping in sidewalks, is not real policy — it’s just throwing up our hands and saying we can’t do anything. We can do better and we must do better.
Ann: First, I don’t agree with the concept of “homeless camp.” There are permitted camps now and the city isn’t even providing adequate basic sanitation services to them. How can we think that institutionalizing 100 more of those is going to solve the problem? I do believe that every neighborhood is full of concerned, compassionate people who want to help. I’ve seen in my own neighborhood reach out to the homeless with compassion and creative problem solving. Engaging each neighborhood in the process of finding a solution that fits the neighborhood would be a great first step.
Q: How would you differentiate yourself from Amanda Fritz in terms of leadership style?
Ann: I am big on collaboration, get input from every side, and focus on win-win solutions. I don’t think you’ve solved something until everyone feels like they can own and implement the plan. Amanda Fritz cares deeply about people, but if you look at her record, most of her accomplishments on council focus on benefits to small groups, specifically city employees. A council member must be a leader for all Portlanders, as well as a policy-maker and a good manager of the people’s money.
Q: Our group came together in response to City Hall’s failure to maintain safety and order in our park. But we realize there are many other critical issues the city faces. What’s at the top of your list?
Ann: We’ve talked about homelessness and public safety. As a small business owner, the economy is always on my mind. The economic landscape is changing and we there will be some challenges incorporating new technologies and the sharing economy into our existing economic framework.
Our current city council handled AirBnB and Uber’s arrival in Portland badly, and continues to show that they do not understand the new economy. The nature of work is changing for many people and rather than looking back to a bygone era for old fashioned answers, we need fresh, innovative ideas to make the future work for all of us.
Additionally, whether in charge of parks, police, transportation, or 911, every city council member must also be a good manager. Inefficient policies, ineffective leadership, and mismanaged budgets are holding Portland back. We’ve lost a lot of public trust because of our poor management of our tax dollars. Having run a successful small business, I can manage the bureaus efficiently and within budget while focusing on the priorities that will make Portland work for everyone.
Q: Speaking of the police, the city has asked every bureau (including Police) to cut 5% – to raise funds for the homeless this year. What is your position on Police funding? What would you do to ensure the Police are properly staffed to deal crime and safety issues in Portland?
Ann: I have never understood across the board cuts. It assumes that all spending is created equally. While we can love all the extras that local government pays for that make our city great and wish that there was enough money for everything, leaders must identify priorities and fund those first. We have had budget surpluses for the past couple of years that could go a long way to funding basic services. Police, fire, 911, basic road maintenance should all be at the top of the list.
I recently spoke to some police officers who indicated that part of the problem is a bottleneck in getting new officers hired and trained. The recruits were qualified and available, but there weren’t enough HR staff to do the screenings. Identifying pinch points like these and making sure that they get taken care of could go a long way to making our budget dollars more effective.
Q: As you know, Portland is currently undergoing a massive growth spurt. We are well on our way to being a world renown city. What specifically would you do differently as a Council seat member – to position Portland for growth and prosperity, while also protecting the uniqueness of Portland that we have all come to love.
Ann: As I go to different parts of the city to listen to the concerns of the people who live here, I am struck by the level of frustrations we all seem to be feeling about direction. The current council and the previous administration seemed to take a “one size fits all” approach. I’ve spent most of my life in Portland and always believed that it was our diverse neighborhoods that made us great. Developing and strengthening programs that support existing businesses and neighborhoods will allow us to grow without losing the flavor of what exists now. We have those pieces in place, but they are often lost in drive to grow Portland quickly.
Extra credit – If you weren’t busy with the campaign, what would you be binge watching on Netflix?
Ann: Now that I’m running for office, I realized that you are either “West Wing” or “House of Cards.” If I could, I’d sit down and binge watch “West Wing” to remind myself that you can do the right thing and be a politician, too.
We first saw this prank sign in Jameson Park last week. Turns out it wasn’t far off message from Mayor Hales’ top-down experiment in homeless camps.
“There are just certain times when the city, faced with an emergency, … has to just buckle down, put their heads down, create something and just try it.” ~ Josh Alpert, Chief of Staff to Mayor Hales. KGW
No, Mr. Alpert is not talking about a unexpected natural disaster. Portland homelessness is a chronic problem. And the city’s inability to insure safe and livable streets has been in the news at least since our blog embarrassed City Hall last summer with park porn photos.
We attended yesterday’s City Council public work session to hear about Portland’s new four-point plan to deal with homelessness in Portland (photo below – that’s right, Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzmanwas not in attendance).
The session featured testimony from Portland Police, a few city officials and homeless advocates. No opportunity for votes, public comment or input from neighborhood groups or businesses that will be impacted. As Mr. Alpert said, “… just buckle down, create something and then go try it.”
The four point plan looks something like this – What could possibly go wrong?
Overnight sleeping on city sidewalks will be allowed, provided that homeless Portlanders use only a sleeping bag and tarp, do not block the sidewalk, and do not exceed six sleepers in one location. Tents are not allowed on sidewalks.
But tents will be allowed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. in certain locations, such as city-owned property that is not a sidewalk. The city plans to release examples of property where overnight-only camping would be allowed.
The guidelines don’t apply to parks, although the Portland Parks Bureau generally hasn’t gone out of its way to fight off overnight tent camping.
“No one should have a tent up in this city all day,” Alpert said.
2. Organized camping system
Alpert hopes to establish several — perhaps 10 — city-sanctioned campsites that must be linked to a nonprofit service provider.
Campers wouldn’t necessarily sleep in tents. Instead, the city may order a “couple hundred” disaster-relief pods that homeless Portlanders could sleep in, Alpert said. Later, those pods could be reused by the city in the event of a wide-scale disaster.
The locations of such campsites would be established with the help of neighborhood associations, Alpert.”It’ll be temporary,” Alpert said of the campsites.
3. Organized car/RV system
Similar to the camping system, the city would designate property where homeless Portlanders could legally camp in cars or RVs. Church parking lots are an obvious choice, Alpert said. Any site would require city approval and would need to be affiliated with a nonprofit service provider.
4. More temporary shelter space
Alpert said the city is looking at three or four locations in the hopes of securing more temporary shelter space. He wasn’t ready to speculate how many beds could be added to the system or when they’d be ready.
PORTLAND, Ore. — When we first checked out the Hazelnut Grove camp last month, it was a small pack of pup tents with an intended cap of 25 people.
A few weeks later, neighbors in the nearby Overlook Neighborhood Association raised concerns.
“What we’re seeing is not typical state of emergency response. It’s ignoring land use laws,” said one man last month. Fast-forward to the end of November, residents said their once small, quiet camp is bursting at the seams.
“From day, to day, to day, it’s just crazy the speed at which it’s growing,” said Joe Bennie, who lives in Hazelnut Grove. Residents of the camp say over the last month, homeless advocates, churches, even police have started pointing people this way.
The word of mouth has led to massive overcrowding and the birth of a second camp, right next door. Residents dubbed it “Forgotten Realms.” The area is now home to 70 people and counting.
Rochelle Irving said she was referred to Hazelnut Grove two weeks ago by a Portland police officer. He told her it would be safe and clean.
“I thought it was kind of cool because they had information and a place for us to go and stuff, but when we came down here. I was scared because there wasn’t any room for us,” she said. “I mean, it was disheartening.”
A spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau said it’s not a department policy to refer homeless people anywhere. Founders of the camp say they appreciate the attempts to help Portland’s homeless find a safe place to stay, but they’re scared too. They worry that big crowds will lead to big problems, like fights and drug use.
“It’s winter time. People are going to get sick. How many people do you want to get sick?” said Bennie. “That’s not what anybody wants.”
But their biggest fear is that the city will see the potential for such problems, as a reason to shut the site down.
A rep for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ office said the city has no plans to shut the site down, adding officials want to work with residents.
He says they’re in the process of selecting more sites for similar camps. Of their potential choices, some are owned by the city. Others would have to be purchased.
He said they’re hoping to select a site soon, but couldn’t say when that would be.
In a recent KGW interview Amanda Fritz suggested that the state of emergency is beyond the city’s control. Fritz went on to say that all of Portland’s neighborhoods should bear the burden and make space for homeless camps.
Fritz doesn’t seem to care that our neighborhoods, parks and public spaces are already overrun by homeless campers. Residents complain about the garbage, used hypodermic needles, drunkenness, theft and fighting.
It appears that Commissioner Fritz has abandoned any effort solve the homeless problem in an effective, humane and equitable way. Instead she want the neighborhoods to make room for campers. We thought that during a state of emergency government officials worked to restore balance and order – not make things worse.
Commissioner Fritz is holding a Town Hall on Monday, Nov 30, 2015. Come and tell her where you would like to locate your neighborhood’s encampment.
Topics will include:
• Right to Dream Too (R2DToo) potential relocation • City of Portland Budget, with particular focus on priorities in Portland Parks & Recreation • Parks Workers pay and working conditions • Tree Code (Title 11)
Time: 7:00 to 8:30 PM (Note: We will start and end promptly. You are welcome to attend for all or part of the forum)
Location: PCC SE Campus, 2305 SE 82nd Ave. Portland, OR 97216. Community Hall Annex (COMX).
Spanish language translation will be available.
Light refreshments will be provided. The closest parking is in Lot F on 79th Ave. TriMet operates bus 4 and 72 near the SE Campus.
Please contact Jasmine Wadsworth or send questions
503-823-3008 or email .
To help ensure equal access to City programs, services and activities, the City of Portland will reasonably modify policies/procedures and provide auxiliary aids/services to persons with disabilities. Call 503-823-2036, TTY 503-823-6868 with such requests or visit this site. Requests must be made by Friday, November 27, 2105.