Old Town Chinatown Community Association doesn't want city's proposed homeless shelter
The Old Town Chinatown Community Association has one word for the city and county's proposed 200-bed homeless shelter at Northwest Hoyt and Northwest Third Avenue: Nope.
After holding two forums on Sept. 6 to hear from the community and area business owners about their thoughts on the shelter, they issued a statement on Wednesday, addressed to Mayor Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Marc Jolin, director of the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services saying they "cannot support" the proposal.
They say they recognize that the city is in a homeless crisis, but that overconcentration of homeless services in that district — which has the highest number of homeless individuals sleeping on its streets on a given night, at around 350 — poses a detrimental impact to the neighborhood, inviting crime and a negative effect on business and tourism.
"As you saw in our presentation during the September 6th meetings, Old Town Chinatown has the highest crime-rate concentration in all of Portland. You also heard the feedback from our residents that they are not just fearful for their lack of safety and security, but are pleading with the City for more support after having a neighbor recently stabbed to death, watching open drug deals on our streets, and the recent drive-by shooting on NW 4th and Everett," the statement reads.
But the biggest reason for their resounding no is linked to previous promises made between the city and Old Town/Chinatown associates — the No Net Gain agreement, a deal made back in the 1980s to prevent more homeless services concentration there.
"That is inconsistent with everything the City has told us over the years. It is hypocritical to continue concentrating high-needs, homeless individuals in this neighborhood using the circular reasoning that there are already services here that they need to access, and it is irresponsible to continue steering vulnerable people into the lowest-income, highest crime area of the City," their letter reads.
Mayor Ted Wheeler's office and the Joint Office of Homeless Services are still reviewing the letter and plan to meet this afternoon to discuss their next steps, according to Michael Cox, spokesman for the mayor's office.
It's unclear how they'll proceed, but officials put much stock in having neighborhood support for a project earlier this year: the tiny-home village for homeless women in the Kenton neighborhood.
Read the letter here
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Update: City and county officials have responded, and are still planning to proceed and look at siting a shelter in Old Town/Chinatown, despite lack of support by the neighborhood association.
The statement, signed by the mayor's office, county chair's office, and the joint office:
"This conversation started because more than 300 people are sleeping without shelter in Old Town Chinatown every night. The neighborhood understands that's a crisis.
A well-run, strongly supported, high-quality shelter like the one we've proposed would help, not hurt, the neighborhood. This kind of shelter can provide a warm, dry place, and a stable connection to services, for many of those neighbors without shelter. It would help them from doorways and sidewalks and into housing.
We have heard concerns from some community members about this proposed shelter. Over the past year, we have enjoyed a positive working relationship with the neighborhood, including the recent move of Right 2 Dream Too and the closing of the Royal Palm Hotel. We do not believe this proposed shelter represents a significant increase in services in the area. Instead, we think this proposal represents an opportunity to improve the services offered in Old Town Chinatown, leading to better results.
We will continue to explore this opportunity. As that process unfolds, we remain committed to working with the neighborhood to shape shelter operations and address specific concerns. We also remain committed to enhancing public safety, livability and economic growth in the neighborhood."