PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Community members and politicians are reacting after reports leaked that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is considering banning unauthorized camping in the city.
The mayor’s plan would end sidewalk camping and instead regulate sanctioned campground “campuses” with 500 people per site, according to Willamette Week.
The mayor’s office told KOIN 6 News that they can’t release more details until they finish talking to all of their partners.
In response, gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson said, “I commend the mayor for taking this decisive step.”
Johnson supports the idea of banning unauthorized camping in public, explaining: “if there are services, sanitation, nutrition, the ability to enforce the law – and all in one place instead to have these scattered camp enclosures that are basically lawless – I totally agree. .”
The idea comes as the city faces a lawsuit for failing to follow ADA policies in keeping sidewalks accessible to people with disabilities.
“I know the litigation has put the city in a position where they take us very seriously,” plaintiff attorney John DiLorenzo said.
Now Portland residents on both sides of the river are reacting to the plan.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction. I think the devil is in the details. There are a lot of questions, obviously,” said Doug Richards, who lives downtown.
Richards hopes the next governor will support Mayor Wheeler.
“We want to make sure the state recognizes that Portland can’t handle this alone. So we need state help,” Richards said.
Meanwhile, Rosemary Adamski, who lives in the Foster-Powell neighborhood, told KOIN 6 News “I want to hear that outdoor camping on streets and public rights of way be banned.”
Adamski lives in an assisted living facility and uses his walker to get around. She said tents and other obstacles along Powell Boulevard made travel unsafe. She’s open to the mayor’s idea for now, but wants to see large indoor shelters later.
“For the interim? It’s fine, but they need social services and health care,” Adamski said.
Lent resident Gillian Rose thinks if officials can achieve this, it will change the minds of people who continue to deny city and county homeless services.
“People on the streets are suffering. They are able to pursue a lifestyle that will truly only lead to death,” Rose said. “Stop providing supplies. And yes, I think some of them will say, “You know what, the city isn’t for me anymore.”
Rose recently founded the Trash Sheep site, to allow people to share the impact of this crisis on them.
With thousands of people sleeping on the streets, the pressure for drastic action is mounting.
In response, gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek told KOIN 6 News that she briefly spoke with Mayor Wheeler about her plan saying “it’s time for Mayor Wheeler to step in to treat this as the crisis he This is my message to the mayor: do it right and do it urgently.”
In a statement, gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan said, “I spoke to Mayor Wheeler on Wednesday about his new plan to address homelessness in Portland. The location, security and management of the new initiative are unknown at this time, leaving major issues unaddressed. But I’m encouraged to see the city take action.
Drazan added, “I look forward to working with Mayor Wheeler and local leaders as our state’s next governor to ensure homelessness is rare and temporary, to reopen our sidewalks and public spaces, to restore safety in our streets and support Oregonians in need.”
Mayor Wheeler said in a statement:
“City Commissioner Dan Ryan and I want to complete our outreach to elected leaders who have key responsibilities related to affordable housing and homelessness issues before finalizing proposals to be announced next week. I am also working in tandem with the mayors of other Oregon cities for a joint approach to the new state governor and state legislature.