Q: Does this mean you support homeless camps in Montavilla?
A: No, we have not taken any position in support of camps in Montavilla but rather have taken a position against sweeps, which we feel are inhumane and do not reduce the amount of camps or effect change. We would like to see a reduction in the number of homeless camps by providing adequate solutions to homelessness.
Q: What does the Montavilla Neighborhood Association hope for as an alternative?
A: We’d like to see the City adopt a long-term plan with outcome-focused investments that will reduce outdoor camping by increasing shelter and transitional housing capacity, and increasing social services.
As a neighborhood association, we’ve tried to address the issue by forming a Housing & Homelessness Committee. Since the committee’s formation in December/January, it has worked with hundreds of neighbors to organize an emergency warming shelter during the snowstorm in February, to hold food and supply shares, and to work with local organizations to connect folks in vulnerable positions with needed resources. We hope to continue to do such work for the neighborhood we live in and care about.
Q: Why aren’t sweeps working?
A: Sweeps provide temporary relief that can last days, weeks, or months, but most camps return as the sweep doesn’t prohibit camps from returning. Once a camp returns, it has to be given due process notice again. Sweeps also do not get anyone off the streets, which means this just creates a vicious cycle of sweeping camps and campers returning, which wastes limited city resources. This isn’t just our opinion but the opinion of experts who work with the homeless and track trends in the population.
Q: What are neighbors supposed to do about camps nearby their homes?
A: We encourage neighbors try to dialogue with camp residents and make an attempt at a positive relationship with them because with sweeps, even these camps are not going away.
If trash becomes a problem, Central City Concern (CCC) offers trash service to camps who are receptive to the assistance, provided by teams of folks who have experienced homelessness themselves. You can contact CCC about a camp that might need trash service by calling 503-823-4000, or using the PDX Reporter App.
The Housing & Homelessness Committee is currently working with the county to increase access to public sharps disposal locations, and to create a hotline where folks can report needles to a small team of volunteers who are able to respond during designated hours. More information to come as we work out details.
We also encourage neighbors to participate in neighborhood actions to temporarily resolve some of the social issues that come with homelessness, such as food shares, supply drives, and community meetings focused on actionable changes that respect both housed and houseless neighbors.
Q: Why don’t you want the police to enforce the law?
A: It is not that simple. First, we’d point out that our resolution is addressing City Council and the City of Portland, not the police department. Second, we’d argue that sweeps are likely unconstitutional and human rights violations when homeless are given no shelter alternatives. Third, we would note that “sit and lie” laws have mostly been struck down as unconstitutional, so these sweeps operate in a gray area that if legally challenged may be halted entirely. A federal court recently ruled in Ellis v. Clark County Department of Corrections that, “the Fourth Amendment forbids . . . the destruction of a person’s property, when that destruction is unnecessary – i.e., when less intrusive, or less destructive alternatives exist.’” In that case, Clark County, Washington, was found liable for destroying unattended property at homeless encampments, and held that these sweeps were a violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Q: Does this resolution represent the entire neighborhood?
A: No, as a neighborhood association when we makes decisions, or take a stance, they reflect the decision of the association board as representatives of the association’s membership, and may not always reflect the values or opinions of every neighbor.
Q: What is a neighborhood association?
A: According to the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, a Neighborhood Association is defined as: “An autonomous organization formed by people for the purpose of considering and acting on issues affecting the livability and quality of their Neighborhood, formally recognized by the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and subject to the ONI Standards.”
Q: Why was notice so short?
A: It wasn’t. We gave 7 days notice, which is the most notice required to be given and is consistent with long standing tradition and our bylaws, even for controversial topics. We also have been holding meetings open to the public with neighbors in our Housing and Homeless Committee meetings for months now, discussing topics like this. (See ONI Standards Section VIII (E)(1)(a) on Page 41 or MNA Bylaws Article VIII Sec 2 (a) and (b) )
Q: How can I have my voice heard?
A: The most important way to share your opinion and give input to the neighborhood association is to participate in meetings and event. But becoming a member is also a good first step because as an association, our primary focus and responsibility is to our membership.
Q: Why did the association not offer a plan?
A: We believe any plan that has the broadest buy-in must involve a diverse set of stakeholders and not just the neighborhood association. We believe the City should lead such a process in order to get robust input.
Q: Will more homeless come to Montavilla?
A: We do not believe our resolution will increase migration of homeless populations to Montavilla because, as we expected, the City has already said, they will continue sweeps. For us this resolution was primarily symbolic but we needed to be on the record calling for solutions that work. This isn’t just our opinion but the opinion of experts who work with the homeless and track trends in the population.
Q: Will crime increase if the City ever did stop doing sweeps?
A: We do not believe crime would increase and our review of publicly available crime statistics show that crime has grown whenever sweeps occur, and has up-trended since they started under Mayor Charlie Hales.
Q: I have some ideas for how to address these issues, how can I share them?
A: We would encourage sharing the feedback with Mayor Ted Wheeler, who holds most control over policy addressing homelessness. We can also review feedback and consider supporting neighbor proposals just get in touch with us.
Q: How does the petition against the MNA’s resolution change things?
A: It doesn’t. We stand by our resolution and would point out that the petition was created and drafted primarily by residents of the Mt. Tabor and North Tabor neighborhoods, and was open to signatures by residents of any neighborhood yet incorrectly purports to just be from Montavilla residents.
Q: Will the neighborhood association offer a town hall or other opportunity for dialogue?
A: Yes, we plan to host a town hall with a panel of experts and one board member to speak on our behalf and a Q&A session. Details on the town hall will be announced in the coming weeks.