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City rejects homeless camp appeal, begins to ring up fines

Right 2 Dream Too counters that group's efforts are paying off

City officials have denied Right 2 Dream Too's appeal of fines for its homeless camp next to the Chinatown Gate on West Burnside Street.

That means the city could begin fining the camp's property co-owner, Old Town businessman Michael Wright. The first month's fine, for January, is $641. The same amount will be assessed in February. After that, the fines double to $1,282 per month.

Right 2 Dream Too's small tent city took root in October, about the time Occupy Portland campers set up tents in two downtown parks a block from City Hall. Initially, city officials said the homeless camp was illegal, but in December Portland's Bureau of Development Services informed the property owners that it could be legal, if state rules governing recreational campgrounds in rural areas were followed.

Right 2 Dream Too leader Ibrahim Mubarek says his nonprofit will pay the January fine, but in protest. Mubarek says the camp, which hosts about 70 per night and has been widely praised by neighborhood leaders and police as a good neighbor, is turning away 20 people a night who want to sleep there.

Mubarek says he doesn't see the sense in removing the encampment at the same time the city is waiving rules so that churches can host small groups of homeless campers in their cars, and thousands of other homeless men and women sleep outside each night in less supervised and more dangerous situations.

'What is the message they are sending us?' Mubarek says. 'They want us back on the streets? This is working.'

Mubarek noted that two formerly homeless residents of the new Bud Clark Commons apartments in Old Town have recently died of drug overdoses, but that none of the homeless at Right 2 Dream Too - which does not allow campers to drink or use drugs - have had such problems.

Ross Caron, spokesman for the bureau of development services, says the fines do not mean the city is intent on closing Right 2 Dream Too.

'Ultimately, we'd like to see these folks come in and go through the recreational campground process,' Caron says.

A number of leaders in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood have said they support Right 2 Dream Too but that it should be moved to a less conspicuous site. Mubarek says he would be open to a move, but nobody has suggested an alternate property.

Owners of the West Burnside property are leasing the site to Right 2 Dream Too at no charge.