Important Response to Portland Mayor’s Shelter and Camp Proposals

There is an important conversation about homelessness, urban camping, and emergency shelter happening in our region right now – especially in Portland. This is a very good thing. Human Solutions is weighing in because we have very relevant experience and expertise to share, as well as a deep commitment to urgently finding solutions to the humanitarian crises of homelessness and housing insecurity. We are one of the largest providers of emergency shelter, affordable housing, and broad-ranging anti-poverty programs in the metro area, with 34 years of experience to add to this important dialogue.

What We Don’t Support that’s Being Floated Now

We do not support the proposals from the office of Mayor Wheeler to round up everyone living outside, and force them into mass shelters or outdoor camps potentially operated by a military force and social-work students from Portland State University. (By the way, the School of Social Work also does not support this proposal and was never consulted.)

These proposals go against our core values, are not trauma-informed, and undermine everything we know about how people avoid and overcome homelessness. And there’s no housing in the equation, which is the most effective solution to homelessness. Nor can we support using coercion to force people from their current sleeping places into sanctioned camping areas. Efforts similar to Wheeler’s latest proposal in nearby Olympia have led to poor outcomes for the very people they were intended to help.

You may have heard our executive director, Andy Miller, interviewed in the news about this. One thing he said stands out for us: “We’re having a lot of conversations about where people can’t sleep. Can we have a conversation about where people can sleep?”

A Roadmap to End the Crisis

Please take a look at the 2022 Roadmap that we co-created in partnership with dozens of other nonprofits and businesses, as part of the HereTogether coalition. This roadmap offers six concrete suggestions to move forward quickly. We favor strategies that center the needs, hopes, and desires of people experiencing homelessness and that target the root cause of the crisis – a lack of viable housing options. As tends to happen with deep inequality, trauma, and racism, like we are seeing in our community, we all suffer as a result. Meeting the needs of those suffering the most makes the community work better for us all – the unhoused, the housed, and the business community. When we humans are at our best (that’s the goal, right?), we’re caring for one another, knowing that we will be cared for, too, when our time comes.

Human Solutions is all in for a major response to this major crisis. That’s why we co-created and continue to advocate for the 2022 Roadmap with input from experienced providers. Check it out – and then please express your support for this plan to elected leaders to elevate this expert-backed solution over ineffective, harmful proposals. And by all means, get involved to help us address this crisis now. We offer a variety of ways to engage, designed to build community through connection and action. You can also donate to fuel our work.

We appreciate that you are part of the Human Solutions community – one we’re building intentionally together every day with justice guiding our way.