Wapato Beats Shanty Towns

Unused bunks at Wapato [Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian]
Unused bunks at Wapato [Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian]
This winter is has been cold, wet and cruel for those forced to live on the streets.

One of Portland’s responses has been to authorize the creation of ad-hoc shanty towns. Unregulated homeless camps are growing all over Portland – most recently at North Greeley called Hazelnut Grove.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz recently told KGW  Every neighborhood in Portland will be asked to find a spot to put a homeless camp.” Is that leadership, for is Fritz sweeping the homeless problem “under the rug” in neighborhoods all over the city?

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We think that opening the Wapato facility as a homeless shelter is a much better idea. Join us by signing a petition to open Wapato as part of a comprehensive plan to address the needs of Portland’s homeless. The county spent millions building Wapato and it continues to waste tax dollars maintaining the facility as it sits empty.

Wapato can be a low/no barrier shelter, a place of safety, a place to get cleaned up, and provided proper meals and nutrition. With co-located services, Wapato can also be a place to get signed up for benefits and prepares those residents for short/long term housing.

A recent Street Roots editorial agrees, stating that opening Wapato, “… gives everyone meals, showers, lockers for storage, laundry and a place to sleep….  moving the programs from the other locations into the one place [Wapato], …  saves tax dollars.”

PDX Newest Homeless Camp “Bursting at the Seams”

Commissioner Amanda Fritz has already stated “Every neighborhood in Portland will be asked to find a spot to put a homeless camp.” She has yet to explain where the city plans on locating these camps, and has not expressed any concerns on impact camps will have on surrounding neighborhoods.

Fritz’s and city council’s willingness to support these improvised camps ignores the lessons learned when nearby Vancouver allowed public camping without adequate planning and support. See Vancouver Allows Public Camping – Here’s What Happened

Here’s a Dec 1 report from KGW Hazelnut Grove Homeless Camp Bursting at the Seams:

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.

Hazelnut homeless camp pdx

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.

Fritz to PDX: Make Room for Homeless Camps

Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz startled us in this KGW interview when she stated that “Every neighborhood in Portland will be asked to find a spot to put a homeless camp.”

Apparently she hasn’t noticed the utter failure of the homeless camp experiment just across the river in Vancouver. See Vancouver Allows Public Camping – Here’s What Happened

Fritz- We're going to ask every neighborhood to find place for homeless campIn 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.

Do You Know The Difference Between Policy and Law?

PortlandCityHall_640editedOne of the biggest questions we run into is “why isn’t law enforcement enforcing the law”. This is a great question but, also a complicated one. Herein lies the conundrum of law and policy. The State of Oregon’s legislature writes state laws. Local city government officials that “we” vote for and put into office set forth policy. Sometimes the law and policy collide when city officials take it upon themselves to set policy which overrides the law.

An example of this can be seen with state law prohibiting smoking in public places which took effect July 1, 2015. While the state law is pretty clear Portland City Council deemed the law unenforceable in their opinion and Amanda Fritz was quoted to say ‘peer pressure,’ not police, will enforce Portland policy. Therefore you will not see a reduction or impact whatsoever on smoking of any kind in public parks nor around play grounds like the one outside of Emerson School, nor will you see a reduction in the cigarette butts left behind.

Similar situations of policy trumping law would be site lie and inner city camping which are both illegal under State of Oregon Law. This particular issue was addressed in the Portland Tribune this week. City Hall has failed to give clear direction to police on what they can or cannot do.

“Assistant Police Chief Bob Day says he has made it clear to officers, for instance, that tents on public property should not be allowed. “We’ve talked about that on multiple occasions,” he says. However in recent discussions with Chief Day – he said “we can and should report illegal camping. That said, the police have to jump through several hoops to get people to move along – it may take 24 – 48 hours. And with understaffing this is not huge priority, but it can be done.

Therefore squeaky wheel gets the grease.” So, let’s get squeaking by calling non-emergency police to remove people from side walk blockage and from door ways. Tents, forts, sleeping bags are all illegal.

Additionally here are other state laws that we as a tax paying citizen have the right to demand be enforced:

1. Drug Free (School) Zones Under Oregon law. Under ORS 475.904 it is a Class A felony “for any person to manufacture or deliver a schedule I, II or III controlled substance within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising a public or private elementary, secondary or career school attended primarily by minors.”

All that has to be shown to obtain a conviction is that the person had more drugs on them then for personal use. That is enough to show an “intent to deliver.” State v. Rodriguez-Barrera, 213 Or. App. 56, 60, 159 P.3d 1201, 1203 (2007) (“possession of a controlled substance in a quantity that is inconsistent with personal use, when accompanied by possession of materials commonly associated with delivery, is sufficient to establish possession with intent to deliver the contr olled substance.”)

2. Dog attack – Oregon law. ORS 609.090 allows the police to impound a dog if it is a “pubic nuisance,” which includes a dog that is deemed to be a “potentially dangerous dog” further defined as a dog that: . . . “Without provocation and while not on premises from which the keeper may lawfully exclude others, inflicts physical injury on . . . a domestic animal . . . .” ORS 609.035(5).

3. Illegal camping. There are no Oregon or federal cases stating that Portland’s “no camping” ordinance is unconstitutional. To the contrary, in Anderson v. City of Portland, No. CIV. 08-1447-AA, 2011 WL 6130598, at *4 (D. Or. Dec. 7, 2011), federal Judge Anna Brown rejected a host of constitutional arguments against the ordinance

Recently, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bushong found the same ordinance to be lawful and constitutional.

This summer our voices were heard by city hall and they took some action. The cooler weather has moved in and we are seeing less drifters and traveling gangs. But, this is the time when we need to push and make noise. If we don’t we run the risk of having another summer next year whereby the North Park Blocks are over-run and occupied by a street dwelling criminal element bent on affecting the quality of life in and around the park.

The only way that we will impact lasting change is by keeping our voices be heard. If we see any crime being committed it is our obligation as good neighbors to report it. If you are confused, which many are, by who to call when feel free to download the North Park Blocks Resource Sheet here  or consider the following:

If you witness or are subject to illegal behavior, please do not confront the perpetrator(s). PLEASE REPORT IT.

  • Crimes in progress or life threatening emergency: dial 911
  • Non-emergency (suspicious person/activity): Portland Police 503 823.3333
  • Park rule violations/drugs/alcohol/off leash dog/litter: Parks Ranger Dispatch 503 823.1637
  • Park maintenance issues: 503 823.4824
  • Illegally parked vehicles: Parking Patrol 503 823.5195
  • Excessive Noise Noise Control Office 503 823.7350
  • City/County Information and Referrals: 503 823.2781

Additionally, sign up to testify at the City Council meetings. Simply email Karla Moore via Karla.Moore-Love@portlandoregon.gov and let her know when you would like to provide the public testimony. City Council meetings are held on Wednesdays. Communications are the first item on the official agenda and they start at 9:30 a.m. (You may also fax at 503-823-4571 or call 503-823-4086 for more information).

NPB Presents To #PDX City Hall

The North Park Blocks group presented to Mayor Hales and other city and county officials at City Hall on Sept 29, 2015. Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz was not in attendance.

The North Park Blocks is made up of a proudly diverse community who chose to live and work here. We proudly continue to support many efforts to address homelessness including construction of Bud Clark Center, the CCC Recovery Center, new Transitions Projects and the new Blanchet House.

Our concern this summer was born for the safety of the community due to a highly aggressive criminal element taking hold in our Park and on our streets.

We believe Portland needs to keep our city safe, sanitary and livable for everyone.  While also offering compassion, kindness and services to those in need.  This includes support for more homeless shelters and low income housing.

Here’s our slide deck

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