The lot at SE 3rd and Harrison where the city wants to move R2DToo
  • Dirk VanderHart
  • The lot at SE 3rd and Harrison where the city wants to move R2DToo

Mayor Charlie Hales says one Right 2 Dream Too isn't enough.

Fresh off news, first reported by the Mercury, that the respected, self-policed homeless rest area may be moving across the river, Hales said today that he believes in the model R2DToo has established, and will likely seek to imitate it in other parts of town.

"We as a community should support the things that work," Hales told the Mercury during sit-down in his office. "I don't expect that this new location for R2Dtoo is the only facilty of that kind that should exist in the City of Portland."

The comment was a nod to the fact that R2DToo's apparently impending move—a victory after nearly 18 months of scouring the city for an acceptable site—may leave a hole in Portland's social services hub. For nearly four years, R2DToo has provided respite for the many homeless Portlanders who stay in and around the charities and shelters of Old Town/Chinatown. And while the Central Eastside also has a large and growing homeless contingent, there's no expectation they'll move southeast with the homeless encampment.

Hales gets that. But he says after years of acrimony—and a legal settlement that was contingent on moving R2DToo from beneath the Chinatown Gate—the move needs to occur.

"Fourth and Burnside was never the ideal location," Hales says. "It was the location where this evolved. Is one R2DToo serving 80 people enough? Hell no."

That stance echoes the low-key maneuvers of Hales' staffers in recent months. As we've reported, mayoral aide Josh Alpert has been looking into establishing a similar rest area that could serve campers who've taken root on the Springwater Corridor Trail in recent years. That effort will continue, Alpert says.

Hales, in today's interview, also dismissed the possibility that the latest prospect for R2DToo might meet the pitfalls of past proposed sites.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz's initial suggestion, in September 2013, that the encampment move to a city-owned lot underneath the Broadway Bridge inspired the collective shrieking of the Pearl District. That shrieking, though, eventually proved valuable to R2DToo. Developers agreed to kick in nearly $850,000 to finding the rest area a new home—money that will be used to purchase the new plot from ODOT, and to hook up the site with electricity and running water.

Also, in December 2013, the mayor brought reporters to a warehouse he said would serve as R2DToo's new home. That, too, fell through.

This time around, Hales and Fritz (who's been heavily involved in finding a new site) seem to have the wind at their backs. The lot they've found is affordable, near public transit, and acceptable to R2DToo's leadership. Its zoning designation allows use as a homeless camp, the city says, and there are no nearby residents to raise hell.

That's not to say there's no opposition. As we reported today, Central Eastside businesses were only informed of the impending deal on Monday, and have serious concerns about importing something that might increase camping in the neighborhood. East Side Plating, the business nearest to the camp, only learned of the plan from the Mercury.

Hales and Fritz, meanwhile, say the new location will be an unquestioned boon to the neighborhood. The site they envision will have showers and restrooms, and will be able to host social services periodically.

"That’s a much better situation in my opinion than being completely on your own," Hales says.

And, as we say, it's a situation he'll look to replicate.

"Is it easy to site these things? Absolutely not. But we’re not done."