THE TIRELESS FAITHFUL who make up the North Tabor Neighborhood Association found themselves being tugged in different directions when they convened earlier this month.
Before the group were two proposals for how North Tabor—and every other Portland neighborhood—should respond to what many think is an inevitability: the spread of organized encampments beyond the small enclaves of downtown's Right 2 Dream Too and Overlook's Hazelnut Grove.
First, the North Tabor group had a form letter sent along by the Overlook Neighborhood Association (OKNA). The Overlookers have been fighting to oust the Hazelnut Grove camp from its city-owned perch on North Greeley, with no success.
So the OKNA has come up with a list of demands for Mayor Charlie Hales' office it hopes other associations sign onto. Most are reasonable—asking the city to require sanctioned camps to abide by a code of conduct, for instance, or setting a maximum occupancy on any organized encampments that emerge as the city grapples with its housing crisis.
But one provision of the letter has seemed universally odious to people I've talked to around the city.
The OKNA wants Hales' assurance that the city will take down the full legal name of anyone who stays in a permitted camp. That would result in publicly available lists, allowing neighbors to conduct their own vigilante background checks for anyone at a city-sanctioned camp.
"It's not practical," says Terry Dublinski-Milton, a board member for the North Tabor group. "If I would have said, 'Let's vote on the Overlook letter [at January's meeting],' it would have been a resounding no."
Some other neighborhood associations have reached similar conclusions, opting to drop the OKNA letter without a vote.
But there's another document making the rounds. This one comes from the city's Coalition Directors and Chairs committee, a group made up of staffers and board members from Portland's seven neighborhood coalitions.
The document—kept purposefully low-key over the past months—is a draft vision for how Portland's neighborhoods might react to more organized homeless camps. And it's a lot more pragmatic than the OKNA's offering.
"While few consider camps the ideal, coalitions recognize that, regardless, makeshift camps exist in all districts throughout the city," reads the proposal.
So the committee seems on the verge of suggesting something radical for our fair city's neighborhoods: That they actually help figure out where the homeless might stay, rather than digging in their heels.
A key element of the draft calls on each neighborhood coalition to "facilitate a process for identifying sites within their boundaries for temporary shelters or camps." A similar proposal, since essentially scrapped, would have gone further still—asking each coalition to find three potential campsites.
"I don't think anyone disagrees that there's an emergency," says Anne Dufay, executive director of Southeast Uplift, the coalition that represents many SE Portland neighborhoods. "At this point the conversation is about what makes sense, and how can we be involved."
Again, it's a draft proposal. There won't be solid conclusions anytime soon.
But the document's another signal that Portland's perhaps no longer satisfied with policies that do little more than shunt people from neighborhood to neighborhood.
In a city where every tent has long been a looming controversy, that's a big deal.