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Can you say a bit more about the alternative finding sources you described? I believe that a safe, humane village / camp (along the lines of what I described previously) could be established for as little as $15k. I feel like Wheeler’s shoes cost more than that. But I don’t have anywhere close to that in my back pocket and my NA typically has around $200 in the bank...
The other big missing piece is the land. Even if we get cash to build yurts, etc we need to put them somewhere. I don’t have a moral objection to setting up camps in certain places without permission, but I don’t think it’s effective in the long run. The goal is to create a safe place where people can live instead of just survive. And with no buy-in from the city or community, folks will always be looking over their shoulders, as Mimi described.
Maybe the first step is to get the city to designate unused land for a use that they can euphemistically call whatever they want to avoid liability. Then communities step in to improve those spaces. If the first couple go well, maybe it could gain momentum?
On May 24, 2021, at 9:09 PM, Elise Aymer <elise@...> wrote:
Emerson and Tom:
Tom - I think you are right about sanctioned villages and liability. Official encampments mean the City agreeing to guarantee their safety. This does seem a major, if unnamed sticking point.
Re negotiating with neighborhood associations for unsanctioned camps -- the associations don't speak for all of the housed residents. Couldn't sweeps happen triggered by complaints from just a few of those residents who are unaware of or not on board with the association's agreement with the encampment? This question isn't meant to shoot down your idea - just thinking it through...
Emerson - Obviously the money that the City and County have is significant and they have it earmarked for some housing use, however, I don't think it's true that money for these efforts doesn't exist elsewhere. There are a lot of people on this listserv, many of them representing organizations that work on housing and homelessness, who have funding or could get it. Fundraising for specific efforts also seems a possibility. What I notice in reading through the listserv messages though is that most of these folks are working independently and often on a solution that they think of as "the one." It seems like, as Tom was saying, more would get done acting together -- pooling resources, access to funding and integrating approaches.
There is definitely more interest at City Hall and at the County in talking about these issues and in seeming to do something about them (even if it's not what the people most affected say they need) but as Mimi said, in the meantime (and especially if there are significant reasons like liability why we won't see official villages) people will die.
Well said, Tom.
I like the bottom-up / “guerrilla” approach, too. The impasse I see is that NAs don’t have any money. The kinds of immediate, high-impact solutions we’re talking about would be a rounding error for the city budget, but very tough for ordinary citizens to self-fund from their own pockets.
Maybe the big question is how to get funding from the city while still giving them plausible deniability. Essentially allowing the NAs (or whoever) act as a liability shield for the politicians. Are we on to something here?
I am not an expert on any of
these topics but I am the current chair of the Bridgeton
Neighborhood Association in North Portland, and for the last
year have written letters and sat on committees trying to break
down the bureaucratic walls that prevent government action to
authorize sanctioned locations for camps. I think that one
unspoken obstacle that prevents government participation is
liability. Every person who is injured, sickens or dies in a
sanctioned camp is a lawsuit waiting to happen and the city
legal team is probably having secret conniption fits every time
a council person says anything in support of supported camping.
So long as the camps are illegal, the government avoids
liability for the health of camp residents.
I think guerrilla camps are called for, and I think that, behind
closed doors, will get support from City Hall. This is only true
though, if the camps also have local support from their housed
neighbors as a buffer against sweeps. Sweeps are triggered when
housed neighbors protest, so camp locations need to be
negotiated in good faith from both sides of the situation in
order to thrive.
Neighborhood Associations are NOT city entities, although there
are links and influences. I am surely biased on the subject, but
I think that local people can negotiate with each other without
the city and its bureaucratic obstacles and come to mutually
agreeable terms, then TELL the city how it's going to be.
I am disheartened when I see people on either side of the conversation, including in this thread, name
calling or dehumanizing their counterparts. It reminds me of the
Palestine/Israel crisis, and is not productive. Enough fighting
amongst ourselves when working together is the way forward.
On 5/24/2021 1:03 PM, Jayme Delson
Can you advise , i do not see a choice in the matter. without
permission of the bureaucracy they end up being swept away,
sadly. Over the decades i have suffered thorough seeing this
happen countless times.
With a kind and competent team willing to do the work and carry
on after it is established, in many locations it could be done
in months, i propose!
On 5/24/2021 12:44 PM, Mimi German
Jayme, everything about your email reminds me
that going at this via the very same bureaucracy that created
it will only lead to its already known end which is, with
nothing accomplished i.e., villages for houseless. Far too
many people will die on the streets by following the route of
permissions from here to eternity. I cringed when I read all
the hoops in your email. There is nothing in the route you
suggest that even hints at immediacy. Without immediate
action, more will die on the streets. We are beyond permission
to be humane for the sake of bureaucracy.
On Mon, May 24, 2021 at
10:22 AM Jayme Delson <jayme@...
Emerson, I fully agree.
I have a slide show presentation that outlines this.
It calls for an emergency iteration Phase 1, and a
permanent iteration Phase 2. It brakes down initial
start up costs and operating costs for Phase 1 and also
for Phase 2. As well as a cost comparison to current
models. Additionally it outlines a vision of what such
a place may look like as it evolves.
I have found support within local planning departments and
among elected officials as well.
So far i have had the most difficulty in finding people
who can make a little time to spear head such a course
of action. Winning over elected officials, community
development departments as well as the citizens in the
general area of such villages. As well as all the
documentation necessary to satisfies everyone's
Also a team is needed to help initially establish such
places, as well as resolve and avert potential
On 5/23/2021 9:33 PM, Emerson This wrote:
Thanks for sharing this,
In that interview you
touched on several things that I've been
thinking/feeling for a long time! The main take-away
for me is that the debate between "permanent"
housing vs immediate remedies to the humanitarian
crisis is a false dichotomy. We need BOTH! My sense
is that the conversation has devolved into competing
factions mostly because we know there's insufficient
political will and/or funding to do both. In other
words, there's no practical reason why we couldn't
walk AND chew gum. Rather, we feel like we can't afford
the gum and the walking shoes. Do we have to accept
Obviously, the money has to
come from somewhere. But it's frustrating and tragic
that the options seem to have been reduced to
expensive long-term "permanent" housing solutions or
slightly-less-expensive short-term alternative
shelters / villages. I don't have anything against
either of those approaches. But I talk to unhoused
people on a weekly basis, and they list the same
urgent needs you mention in your interview. Folks
repeatedly ask for the same super basic things:
trash bags. Anywhere to stay dry and not get
harassed. A way to prevent their stuff from getting
stolen so they can leave their campsite to do... anything
besides guard their stuff all day! These specific
problems just aren't that complicated or expensive.
I know because I've seen it with my own eyes. I've
seen ordinary citizens take it on themselves to
provide trash cans, upgrade tents to make them
warmer and drier, provide places to secure stuff...
etc. These kinds of things immediately improve the
lives of unhoused people and their housed neighbors
and they cost pennies. Of course, many of the folks
on this forum already know all this. But I never
hear anyone in City Hall talk like this. It seems
like the politics of the moment (and tons of red
tape) have made it suicideal to consider simple,
imperfect, commonsense ideas.
I wonder what readers of
this forum think? Do we have the stomach for
admittedly imperfect, short-term solutions? For
example, what if the city magically escaped the
political gridlock and sanctioned unused spaces all
across the city for camping. Maybe each one gets a
dumpster. And maybe they even buy hundreds of cheap
garden sheds. I'll be the first to admit this is not
"good enough" in the long term and flawed in many
ways. But it's also 100 times better than the
current situation, right? And it could literally be
accomplished in days for less than the cost of a
single fancy shelter or village. To be clear, I'm
not claiming this is the solution. It's just
a hypothetical example of the kinds of messy,
imperfect ideas that I wish there was more space
WW interviewed me, I wrote it up:
"The houseless vs the settlement:
interview with Willamette Week".
discussing, among others:
County Commissioner Sharon
County Chair Deborah Kafoury
PSU Homelessness Research &
Action Collaborative director Dr. Marisa Zapata
Homer Williams, founder of Oregon
Harbor of Hope
Councilmember Dan Ryan.
Sophie Peel, Reporter, WW
Mark Zusman, Publisher WW
Aaron Mesh, Editor, WW
Nigel Jaquiss, Reporter, WW
Rachel Monahan, Reporter, WW
Tess Riski, Reporter, WW
[note to WW staff or others
receiving this email: you can reply to PDX
Shelter Forum by using Reply to All or
addressing to email@example.com
Co-founder, Critical Diversity Solutions
Thanks for your message!