Until last week, it had never seriously entered into my mind that Right 2 Dream Too was in any jeopardy.
There was too much goodwill behind the homeless rest area that has sat at the corner of West Burnside and 4th since 2011; too much agreement—from elected leaders, advocates, and even among some groups that often present roadblocks to progress—that this was a worthwhile enterprise.
“They’ve proved me and other people wrong,” City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who’d once overseen the levying of thousands of dollars in fines against the camp, said last year.
Similar sentiments have abounded in Portland in recent years. The camp seemed politically bulletproof.
It’s not. That began coming into focus last Friday, when Commissioner Amanda Fritz called with some surprising news.
For years, Fritz has been working to move the camp to a new home, and has twice failed in serious attempts—first to move R2DToo to the Pearl District, then to the Central Eastside.
But with a fast-approaching April 7 deadline for R2DToo to leave its current spot, Fritz had a new plan. The Oregonian reported on February 10 that she’d been working to site the camp on a long, thin parking lot on SW Naito. The lot is held by Portland Parks and Recreation, which Fritz controls, and there appeared to be zoning justification for a mass shelter on the land.
Fritz failed to secure one last, necessary thing, though: Mayor Ted Wheeler’s assent.
“The mayor has decided we will not move forward,” Fritz told me on Friday, adding she’d be turning over the job of finding a place for R2DToo to Wheeler.
Wheeler’s got outsize say in this matter because he controls the Office of Management and Finance (OMF), which has long been a pillar of plans to move R2DToo. Without OMF’s help, a move probably won’t work, and Wheeler has decided OMF won’t help—at least not in moving the camp to the property Fritz had proposed.
“The mayor has spoken to businesses, workers, and residents of the area and they are nearly uniform in their opposition,” Wheeler spokesperson Michael Cox said on Friday.
The more crucial thing—unspoken until I chatted with Cox later that afternoon—is that Wheeler’s also not going to kill himself finding R2DToo a new home. “Our commitment is to addressing the challenges around homelessness writ large,” Cox told me.
But if Wheeler’s content to let R2DToo disappear, his predecessor was not. Mark Kramer, a long-time attorney for the camp, points out that the Charlie Hales-led city council of 2014 committed, via ordinance [PDF], that “R2DToo will be allowed to stay at [its current] site until the City finds a suitable alternate site,” if city officials take control of the plot as planned.
Kramer won’t talk much about his strategy, but says he’s working on a “plan A and a plan B.”
“In either case R2DToo will be on its own site,” Kramer said Tuesday afternoon. He thinks the camp could remain on its current site for six months, or a year. “Maybe longer.”