Making good on a promise to find a way to allow small-scale "overnight sleeping" sites in Portland, Commissioner Nick Fish will present a resolution next week that allows qualifying churches and nonprofits to host homeless Portlanders living in cars, RVs, and motor homes.
The resolution, obtained by the Mercury, was crafted with input from Commissioner Dan Saltzman's office, which runs the Bureau of Development Services (BDS). It would direct code inspectors "to not enforce code violations associated with these activities." The pilot program would be managed by Fish's housing bureau and be reviewed in a year.
Fish's chief of staff, Betsy Ames, says Saltzman is on board, and that Randy Leonard, the only other commissioner who will attend next Wednesday's Portland City Council meeting, also is expected to say yes. (Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Sam Adams will both be absent but also have expressed support.) The resolution would take effect immediately, with a companion resolution planned for the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners the following day.
The idea is modeled on a similar program in Eugene. Ames acknowledged that Fish failed to win support when he first tried to import the idea a few years ago. This time, she says, interest from churches—and the highly visible example of the very successful Right 2 Dream Too tent city at NW Fourth and Burnside—persuaded Fish to try again, but now with the support of BDS.
Instead of rewriting city code, like Fish first tried, "we'll use existing authority under city code to prioritize enforcement," she says.
Fish's office is being very careful not to call this a "camping" program, given that the city remains mired in litigation over its current camping ban. While some advocates have been briefed on the plan, and indeed have been asking for something like it, no sites have been firmly proposed.
A copy of the resolution, as well as comment from Street Roots, is after the cut.
Israel Bayer, director of Street Roots called the pilot program a "step in the right direction," but also said "its not a solution and there needs to be more."
What would that "more" look like? Something else like Right 2 Dream, Too—and also Dignity Village.
"This shouldn't replace what Right 2 Dream, Too, has been able to accomplish," he says. "Knowing that this is a pilot project, it would be great if the council would review this in 12 months and if it's been successful, then look at more ways to expand."
Monitor on a pilot basis small-scale overnight sleeping options to occur on the site of religious institutions or community services uses operated by a non-profit agency and charge the Director of the Bureau of Development Services to not enforce code violations associated with these activities operated under the pilot program guidelines. (Resolution)
WHEREAS, the City of Portland and Multnomah County adopted Home Again: A 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Portland and Multnomah County as a long-term guiding framework to build and maintain a coordinated and efficient system of housing and services that work to end homelessness within our community; and,
WHEREAS, in support of Home Again, the City of Portland and its partnering jurisdictions are committed to ongoing investment in a combination of strategies that end homelessness, with emphasis on long-term cost-effective solutions including permanent supportive housing development, short- and long-term rent assistance, and homelessness prevention, rapid-rehousing, and shelter diversion; and,
WHEREAS, the City of Portland and its partnering jurisdictions collaborate to implement these activities with multiple community-based not-for-profit providers who, between 2005 and 2009, helped to move more than 6,200 households from homelessness into housing; and,
WHEREAS, in 2010 alone, the City of Portland and its partners helped prevent more than one thousand households from becoming homeless and move more than 2,200 households from homelessness into housing; and,
WHEREAS, in spite of these highly effective efforts, the 2011 Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness in Portland/Multnomah County found that, on any given night, more than 1,700 people, including families with children, single individuals, and couples sleep on the streets, in vehicles or other places not meant for human habitation; and,
WHEREAS, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO) and other local faith community leaders have requested that the city allow opportunities for faith communities and not-for-profit service providers to promote safety and a good night’s sleep for people experiencing homelessness by hosting small-scale overnight sleeping options within the City of Portland; and,
WHEREAS, small scale overnight sleeping programs have operated successfully in other West Coast communities, including an effective effort underway for more than thirteen years in Eugene, Oregon; and,
WHEREAS, the establishment of overnight sleeping options on the site of some religious institutions and community service uses may normally require adjustments or review under current codes; and,
WHEREAS, occupancy of campers, motor homes, and recreational vehicles is only allowed at approved permanent locations; and,
WHEREAS, City Code 3.30.040.A states that in order to carry out the duties of the Bureau of Development Services, the Director of the Bureau of Development Services may establish enforcement priorities based on the number of budgeted enforcement personnel, public safety and welfare factors, and any priorities established by City Council:
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Portland shall monitor on a pilot basis small-scale overnight sleeping options to occur on the site of religious institutions or community services uses operated by a non-profit agency; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Council shall utilize the authority in City Code 3.30.040.A and charge the Director of the Bureau of Development Services to not enforce code violations associated with small-scale overnight sleeping options on the site of religious institutions or community services uses operated by a non-profit agency so long as the overnight sleeping options are consistent with the guidelines identified in Exhibit A; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Portland Housing Bureau shall maintain a record of participating Hosts and shall work with local faith community leaders and homeless services providers to have Hosts agree to conform to the guidelines identified in Exhibit A; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Portland Housing Bureau shall convene a group of participating faith community and not-for-profit agency leaders and other government partners to: establish any additional supportive operating guidance, evaluate effectiveness of overnight sleeping activities, and report back to City Council within twelve months.
Adopted by the Council:
Commissioner Nick Fish
Prepared by: Ryan Deibert
Date Prepared: December 13, 2011
Auditor of the City of Portland
Exhibit A: Guidelines associated with overnight sleeping activities
Some religious institutions and non-profit service provider (Hosts) have expressed a desire to promote safety and a good night’s sleep for people experiencing homelessness (Guests). If these entities wish to allow overnight sleeping on their property, Hosts should adhere to the following guidelines:
• Guests may sleep overnight in a vehicle, camper or trailer parked on an existing parking lot of a Host. The Host may not grant permission for use of more than one designated area for this use, or for more than a total of four vehicles, campers, or trailers.
• Hosts should establish means to document and display Host permission for Guests to use Host parking lot for overnight sleeping, and Hosts should establish that they may revoke that permission at any time and for any reason. Any Guest who receives permission to sleep on that property must leave the property immediately after permission has been revoked or may be subject to trespass regulations.
• Hosts must:
• Provide or make available sanitary facilities or assure that such facilities are included in Guest vehicles, campers or trailers, including ensuring appropriate disposal of all waste generated;
• Provide or make available garbage collection and disposal services;
• Assure that Guests’ personal items are screened from public view if such items are not generally contained within Guest vehicles, campers or trailers;
• Not allow temporary or permanent connections to Guest vehicles for electrical, water or sanitary waste;
• Meet minimum setback requirements for any new facility placed on the site to meet these guidelines
• Not require payment of any fee, rent or other monetary charge for overnight sleeping
• Guest referral and support may be coordinated independently by each Host, but Hosts are generally encouraged to develop partnerships with not-for-profit entities that coordinate street outreach, housing placement, and/or other homeless service case management.
• Each Host’s property will be uniquely situated with respect to proximity to and type of neighboring properties. In general, Hosts should be aware of and work actively with Guests and neighbors to minimize the following potential negative impacts of overnight sleeping activities on Host and neighboring properties and other issues:
• Glare on adjacent properties from any new lighting;
• Odors associated with cooking, portable toilets, garbage, etc.;
• Noise (from animals, human voices, portable toilet doors, etc.), especially during night hours, between 10 pm and 7 am;
• Use of generators or idling engines for RV and trailers should be below permissible sound levels at all times during the day and any exhaust or odors should not create a nuisance on adjacent properties;
• Availability of water for drinking, cooking, or sanitation;
• Visibility of Guest vehicles, campers, trailers, and personal belongings;
• Accumulation or spread of trash and debris and associated vector issues (rodents, etc.);
• Setbacks to property lines for vehicles, campers, trailers, storage areas, portable toilets (not all sites may be appropriate given close proximity to residential properties);
• Removal of vehicles during peak parking times if overnight sleeping is taking place in minimum required parking spaces;
• Theft and vandalism concerns to Host or adjacent properties.
Anyone concerned that overnight sleeping Hosts may be violating the above guidelines is strongly encouraged to first contact the Host directly. If concerned individuals are unable to reach the Host directly, they may contact the Portland Housing Bureau by calling 503-823-2375.
All Hosts will provide a signed acknowledgement of these guidelines to PHB and will identify a specific contact person and contact number to the Portland Housing Bureau. The Portland Housing Bureau will maintain a record of participating Hosts. The guidelines and contact information shall also be provided by the Hosts to neighbors upon request.