By Nancy Tannler
In the March edition of The Southeast Examiner the article, “S2HC Offers Remedies for the Houseless” stated, “There will be no camping in natural areas, environmental zones or parks.”
A reader felt this was a misleading statement that might have some people surprised once the S2HC project is approved.
The statement is true regarding the code dealing with permanent shelter facilities. However, the new provision in the S2HC does accommodate temporary operation of a mass shelter or an outdoor shelter on a site in all zones of the city for up to 180 days if a disaster is declared.
Eric Engstrom, Principal Planner, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability further explained, “The terms “mass shelter” and “outdoor shelter” are defined terms in the zoning code; which are types of community service land uses. These definitions specify they are nonprofit or government provided services.
So when we are authorizing a mass shelter or outdoor shelter, we are authorizing nonprofit or public service facilities; not individuals or groups to camp where they want.”
When the S2HC was presented to City Council for the first time on March 17, it was reiterated by both Mayor Wheeler and Engstrom throughout the presentation that, “This project does not legalize unsanctioned camping.”
Over 120 people signed up to testify that day, although there was not time to hear everyone.
In general, residents want to see something being done about the humanitarian crisis we are witnessing here in the Portland. There was a lot of support for S2HC. The fear is that it won’t really resolve the problem and will open up parks and other open spaces for camping.
Several residents of the Lents neighborhood are asking for there to be equal distribution of the shelters and services throughout the city and not just in their neighborhood.