THE STABTOWN PLAN
SOne thing we often hear from elected officials, public employees tasked with addressing homelessness, and homeless advocates is that cynics like Stabtown can only pick at the problem, not offer solutions. On the contrary, we at Stabtown have repeatedly suggested attainable measures to address the immediate challenges of homelessness while long-term plans to solve the problem are implemented.
Greater access to more-robust social services, more transitional supportive housing, more affordable housing and other measures will help over time, but they will take years to have a meaningful impact. Meanwhile, Portlanders -- with and without homes -- suffer the immediate impacts of homelessness such as theft and other crimes, environmental damage, physical and mental abuse, loss of public spaces and, yes, stabbings.
Stabtown.com advocates a three-pronged approach to address the deleterious effects of homeless camping on Portland and its residents in the short term.
First, the city should identify a handful of large tracts of land that can host sanctioned camping in numbers large enough to accommodate all campers. Potential sites include land around Portland International Raceway, the training area adjacent to Colwood Golf Course, land around the Bybee Lakes Hope Center, large open spaces in Washington Park, and the back nine at Eastmoreland Golf course. These and other sites could be used if the city were serious about treating the housing emergency as an actual emergency. Some sites should be low-barrier or even no-barrier and others more managed. All should be distributed around the city rather than concentrated in one or two quadrants. Ideally, these large camps would include access to water, sanitation, and potentially bunk houses with electricity and heat.
Second, the city should quickly implement more managed camps throughout the city akin to the Kenton Women’s Village. Kenton demonstrated that neighborhood engagement and on-site services can succeed. The fact that the St Johns Village has been two years in development and still not opened is unconscionable and insults the homeless who have been waiting to move there from the Hazelnut Grove camp.
Third, when enough large campsites are available, the city should implement a zero-tolerance policy for camping anywhere else. All camps should be promptly swept and the residents put in touch with service providers and assisted in moving to shelters or one of the sanctioned campsites.
We are under no illusion that rolling out a plan like this would be easy, but we believe that leaders with political courage could rally the public to support this plan as an interim step toward long-term solutions.