Statement from Human Solutions on the Mayor’s Proposal for Mass Shelters

Read about Mayor Wheeler’s proposal.

We already know that mass shelters and camping bans don’t end homelessness. Only real, universal housing ends homelessness for the people experiencing it on the streets and in our shelters.
We know that when we enforce camping bans without a viable offer of a home that can work for people on the streets, we only criminalize homelessness and retraumatize our houseless neighbors.
An approach to homelessness led by law enforcement and a sector of our military flies grotesquely in the face of Portland’s stated goal to advance racial justice and will disproportionately harm our BIPOC houseless neighbors.
This kind of action poses real harm to the very people we say we are trying to help and offers them no long-term solution. Forcibly relocating people already suffering to mass shelters, which many on the streets have been clear will not work for them, and staffing those shelters with untrained members of the military and students is an inhumane response to our failed approach to house all our people.
If our community truly wants to end homelessness, which Human Solutions believes we do, we must refocus our energy and investments from strategies that address the symptoms of homelessness and instead do the hard work of taking on the root cause: a lack of accessible, affordable housing caused by our historic underinvestment in housing for all of us.
It is past time for a more aggressive effort to leverage every opportunity and every resource to create housing using approaches we have not tried, and by deploying proven approaches like the housing-first model to end our crisis humanely and sustainably. If the mayor wants to deploy the National Guard, maybe they can work to convert vacant buildings into real housing for the people who most need it.
A broad coalition has shared a road map for our response with the mayor and local elected leaders, and we look forward to working with them to act with greater urgency for real solutions.