UPDATE 3/13/23: This site has been selected. We are hosting a virtual meeting with Mayor Wheeler and Urban Alchemy on it Friday, March 17, 2023 at 2:30PM. See related post: Clinton Triangle Chosen for Sanctioned Campsite
UPDATE 2/17/23: This statement was prepared for the interview in this KOIN-TV segment.
We are living through a refugee crisis related to housing costs, the pandemic, and climate change. Compassionate responses to neighborhood challenges in the face of these can be difficult, and some responses can make things worse, turning being poor into a crime. Responding in a way that makes everyone feel safer can be challenging, especially if our definition of everyone includes those who have nowhere to go but the road.
Recently, there have been news stories about the letters of intent sent to secure properties in the “Clinton Triangle” for Portland’s sanctioned camping spaces.
The Brooklyn Action Corps maintains its position that the solution to the housing crisis is more housing. The chosen site has been recently targeted for redevelopment. The high-density development that the Brooklyn neighborhood is experiencing, such as BrookLAND at SE Milwaukie and Boise and the former US Bank Site at SE Milwaukie and Franklin, demonstrates the development potential for inner SE neighborhoods like Brooklyn. We are concerned that that market value of these properties will force the movement of the camp, uprooting the unhoused yet again.
We’ve followed closely the development of the sanctioned camp program. We have concerns that it is an under-resourced, temporary solution to a persistent problem. We have welcomed neighbors in Brooklyn who serve at-risk communities, such as Boys and Girls Aid and the new Karibu Stabilization Program. They have maintained good relations and responded well to concerns raised by neighbors, due to the excellent work of the organizations hosting the programs. Unhoused neighbors not in such programs have responded less well to concerns raised by neighbors. Therefore, we see the value in such programs when managed well. We are concerned that this program may not be managed well, based on our board members’ observations at the public planning meetings for the sanctioned camping program.
Some neighbors have indicated that the site is unreasonably close to Cleveland High School. Most of the board doesn’t believe the campers represent a safety issue to the neighborhood or that half a mile is “unreasonably close”. The safety issue of car and freight traffic passing Cleveland High School is demonstrably higher, as the death of Sarah Pliner showed. If neighbors are concerned for the safety of students and teachers, the long-term health effects from fine diesel particulates generated by the Union Pacific rail yard and Trimet headquarters within a mile of the school should be high priority.
The program does try to address safety issues via “Good Neighbor” agreements and a $250,000 grant program. The devil is in the details, though. It’s unclear how such money would be apportioned. The Brooklyn neighborhood’s core is closer to this site than Ladd’s Addition, because it’s on the edge of the Hosford-Abernathy neighborhood. Who will get get the grant? How will the money be spent? Will it also keep the campers safe?
The site’s location bordering both Trimet and Union Pacific train tracks represents issues both for the campers and train traffic. We have concerns about the obstruction of trains and noise & air pollution affecting the health and well-being of campers.
We are concerned that a program to force the unhoused into large campsites and penalize those who don’t is regressive. We believe it will end up costing more than just providing housing and support services. The choice of this site is immaterial, from our perspective, since the program itself seems flawed.
The solution to a housing problem is more housing, not sanctioned campsites. We believe we need to keep trying different ways to support our unhoused neighbors, respecting them as our neighbors, while we build the housing.
This statement has been written by John Karabaic with the board’s editorial input and approval.