Commissioner Randy Leonard proposed a controversial deal to locate a second temporary day-access center for the homeless in Old Town/Chinatown on Monday, January 7, in a move likely to further piss off the neighbors.
Leonard's timing could not have been worse: Old Town businesses and neighbors are still reeling over Commissioner Erik Sten's decision last month to build a permanent day-access center for the homeless on "Block 25" in Old Town.
Sten was due to meet with Old Town neighbors this Wednesday, January 9, to talk about his permanent day-access center, but thanks to Leonard's timing he is now likely to face even louder accusations that Old Town is becoming a dumping ground for Portland's social services.
The new space at 11 NW 5th would supplement the Julia West House on SW 13th and Alder, which is being funded by Mayor Tom Potter's Street Access for Everyone (SAFE) committee. Overcrowding there has been leading to safety problems, including reported drug dealing.
The SAFE committee, which has been looking for a second center for several months, will meet at the property next Thursday, January 17, to take a look at the building and make a decision on whether to fund improvements to it with $50,000 of the Portland Business Alliance's money. The new center would be run with $208,000 of the city's money.
Meanwhile, neighborhood stakeholders are concerned.
"This [second temporary center] will make it very difficult for us to move forward [with the permanent center]. I think this will derail everything that we're working on," said Doreen Binder, executive director of Transition Projects, Inc. (TPI), on Tuesday morning TPI will eventually run the new permanent access center on Block 25.
"I honestly feel that this [temporary] center will improve the dynamic in the neighborhood," responded Commissioner Leonard. "Any time you have someone out there doing something proactive about the problem you have this resistance."