THE BLUEPRINT for how to keep a city-sanctioned homeless camp out of your neighborhood was drawn up early last year.
That's when Pearl District developers pleaded and cajoled and, eventually, paid almost $900,000 to convince city leaders not to plop the well-respected, self-managed homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too under the Broadway Bridge.
The plan takes dedication and resources, but it's a cinch for most organized neighborhoods to pull off. Just take outspoken and respected business types, mix in the anxious misgivings of neighbors, and haggle over the meaning of Portland's restrictive zoning policies.
All the while—and this is important—insist you support Right 2 Dream Too and its honorable work "110 percent." You're just concerned a place in your neighborhood isn't the best fit. Offer to help find a place in another, more suitable part of the city.
Wait for city hall to reconsider its options.
Breathe easy when it does.
The strategy's got plenty of potential, but its true efficacy is about to be put to the test.
Ever since Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced in late April they'd found a new home for R2DToo at SE 3rd and Harrison (just east of Tilikum Crossing), the Central Eastside's been quietly positioning itself to replicate the Pearl's tactics.
First, the business interests: The influential Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC) has said it was given too little notice about the proposed move, and has voiced concern that outdoor camping is already too prevalent in the neighborhood. The CEIC also has a detailed argument that allowing a homeless encampment in an industrial zone is a "contrived" and perverse use of city code.
Next, the neighbors: On July 6, a powerful coalition of Southeast and Northeast Portland neighborhood associations formally voted to ask the city to pump the brakes on the proposed move. That coalition, Southeast Uplift, says it's not R2DToo that has it worried; it's just that the time-honored neighborhood process that Portland's built on has been circumvented.
What's more, group chair Robert McCullough tells me the proposed site might be too polluted for human habitation. "Our agenda turns out not to be very NIMBY-like, interestingly enough," McCullough says.
Now, the test. On Wednesday, July 15, Portland City Council will consider whether to spend $254,044 to buy the proposed encampment site from the Oregon Department of Transportation.
It's a necessary and meaningful step toward a move that needs to happen by October 2016, but Hales' tone has slackened a bit since April, when he told me he'd like to set up R2DToo-like sites around the city once the encampment moves across the river.
"The 3rd and Harrison site could be a good home for Right 2 Dream, which has proven to be a part of the solution for Portland's homeless population," Hales said in a statement last week. "But even if the site doesn't work for that purpose, it may still be a good site for the city to own."
For what other purpose? The mayor's office has no clue. But Hales is creating plenty of rhetorical space to change his position, should the blueprint drawn up by Pearl District developers last year prove architecturally sound.