From PortlandOnline.com, May 1, 2008

Protests at City Hall

The following is a statement from Mayor Potter on the protests occurring outside Portland City Hall:

If you have come downtown in the last week, you may have noticed that a group of homeless individuals have been protesting outside City Hall since the weekend. Here is why they are here and what the City is doing to address their concerns.

First of all, it is important for Portlanders to respect these individuals’ First Amendment right to make their voices heard. As long as the entrance to City Hall is not blocked and conditions remain sanitary and safe, they have a right to be here and to make their concerns known.

The group is protesting recent police “sweeps” under the bridges and the inner Eastside. Police “sweeps” are designed to stop illegal camps where drug use and unsanitary conditions threaten those living in them.

Portland currently has more than 400 shelter beds for homeless adults and 300 for people in families. But these shelters are full every night, and more than 1,400 people sleep on our streets. While the City and Multnomah County’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness has made great strides, moving 1,286 homeless individuals and 1,682 homeless families into permanent housing, there still is not enough affordable housing for everyone who needs it.

Unfortunately, given the tightening economy, and the current competitive rental housing market, the number of homeless is likely to increase and the pressure on housing and homeless resources will remain challenging.

I do not know how long the protest will continue, but here is what the City is doing to help:

We’ve asked a social service agency to interview the protesters so we will have real data on their specific circumstances, needs and concerns.

We will reopen temporary winter shelters for men and women for the months of May and June. Housing experts tell us that permanently opening shelters in not a good idea because clients too often don’t make the transition to permanent housing once they enter the shelter system.

We’re exploring how to increase the utilization of rental vouchers.

I ask all of you to be courteous to the campers, as they should be to you in return. If you experience any problems, please feel free to contact me at mayorpotter@ci.portland.or.us.

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