Emmons proposes own homeless plan
Saying that Portland Multnomah County leaders are not doing enough to end homelessness, City Council candidate Stuart Emmons released his own plan on Tuesday.
Titled "The Portland Home Project," the nearly $400 million plan call for a focused four-year effort to significantly increase funding for homeless services led by a new public-private Coordinate, Fund, Collaborate, implement Team (CFCi). The money would be used to build and improve emergency shelters in the short term and buy lower-cost existing housing or specifically-designed small units, including tiny homes, accessory dwelling units, and single-occupancy unit apartment buildings.
It also calls for one or more local pre-fabricated housing manufacturing plants to help keep costs below $100,000 per unit, which is less than half of what Portland is now spending on new affordable housing apartments. The manufacturing would also provide jobs for homeless people, Emmons says.
"We need need more funding and more of an overall effort to address the whole homeless issue, not just nibble around the edges," says Emmons, an architect who has worked on affordble housing projects.
Over the past few years, the city and county have declared housing emergencies, created new joint agencies to better coordinate homeless services, and significantly increased spending on homeless services and affordable housing projects. Portland voters also approved a $258.4 million affordable housing bond referred by the council to the November 2016 general election ballot.
Emmons says it is clear that the efforts are not keeping up with the need, judging by the increasingly visible number of homeless people living on the streets, however.
"Homelessness is humanitarian disaster. Even hundreds of school children are homeless. Our once clean city is now filthy because of our failure to address this crisis. People are openly using drugs in front of our kids. Restaurant servers are being asked to remove human waste off front stoops. Many do not allow their children to walk freely downtown for fear of their safety. Our city's whole psyche is damaged and we are doubting ourselves. Portland's touted livability has taken a hit," Emmons writes in the plan.
Emmons posted the plan on his campaign website on Tuesday. He estimates it will cost $398 million, with much of the funding to be collected from the private sector by members of the CFCi team and other fundraisers. Some of the money would also go to service to help homeless people remain in their new homes.
The plan's goals include removing all tents and tarps from the streets in two years and providing permanent housing to 75 percent of the homeless population in four years, with the remaining 25 percent living in shelters.
Other candidates for the council seat being vacated by Commissioner Dan Saltzman also say more needs to be done to address homelessness on their campaign website and in public appearances. For example, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith has repeatedly pushed for unopened Wapato Jail to be used as a homeless service center. And Northwest Portland neighborhood activist Felica Williams calls for building a campus-style homeless services center on city-owned land and using a combination of 99-year ground leases, land swaps and city-owned land to build more affordable housing. None of the other candidates are as critical of the current efforts or provide as much detail in their plans as Emmons, however.
Emmons urges the city and county to commit to his plan now. He believes the city council should allocate a portion of the uncommitted affordable housing bond funds to the lower-cost housing he is proposing.
"I don't think we can wait until after the election. But if that doesn't happen, I'll push for it on the council if I get elected," says Emmons, who calls the figures in the plan estimates that could change as it is enacted.
You can read the plan at emmonsdesign.com/the-portland-home-project.html.