© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Portland Council Delays Vote To Move Homeless Camp

At the last minute Thursday, the Portland City Council postponed a vote on whether to move the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp to a city owned lot on Portland’s east side.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Amanda Fritz want to move the camp to industrially-zoned land the city owns at 3rd and Harrison, near the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, and pushed the council to take a vote.

“We need to proceed,” Hales said. “We’ve been talking about this decision for years.”

In the end, after close to four hours of testimony, Commissioner Steve Novick asked for more time to consider the decision, and the council agreed to delay the vote for a week.

Right 2 Dream Too shelters up to 75 people a night in a camp built from tarps and old lumber.

The camp is run by homeless people themselves. Rules at the camp include a ban on drugs, alcohol and weapons.

Homeless adults can spend up to 12 hours a day sleeping at Right 2 Dream Too. The camp offers separate sleeping areas for men, women and children.

In addition to people who use the camp for emergency shelter, a smaller group — called members — live there longer term, and take on chores like staffing the security desk, keeping the grounds clean, and cooking.

Member Mike Summers said it’s one of the only places he can sleep soundly.

“I’m not trying to sleep with one eye open, and one eye closed, watching our stuff. Making sure that I’m not assaulted and my girlfriend isn’t assaulted,” he said.

The proposed new east side site would have space for up to 100 people, and would include toilets, showers and a laundry area, as well as individual tents for the long-term members.

Five years ago, an adult bookstore owner who’d feuded with the city invited Right 2 Dream Too to pitch their tents on his property. Now, the site belongs to the Portland Development Commission and is slated for development. Mayor Hales and Commissioner Fritz have committed to moving Right 2 Dream Too by October 2016.

More than 40 people showed up Thursday to weigh in on the proposed move. The most vocal opposition came from the owners and employees of an industrial metal plating business that’s located next door to the proposed camp.

“I want to make it clear, I’m not against the homeless,” said Tim Lamb, owner of East Side Plating. “I have a sister who is in a shelter here in Portland.”

Lamb and others noted that his business uses hazardous chemicals, and questioned the safety of locating a homeless camp next door.

“Would you place a school next to hazardous chemicals? If not, why would you place R2DToo next to one?” he asked the council.

Other staff of East Side Plating noted that the company was required to evacuate the area in the event of a hazardous material spill, and said it would be difficult to develop an evacuation plan that included up to 100 transient neighbors.

But city staff who testified said there was little evidence that locating the camp next to an industrial site posed a safety risk to its homeless residents.

The city conducted soil and air testing at the site. The soil sampling revealed minor contamination that could be remediated. Air testing found that the east side site had cleaner air than the Right 2 Dream’s current location on 4th and Burnside.

“Our concern is in a camp, you have people down close to the ground, so we wanted to make sure the ground was safe,” said city facilities manager Bob Keita.

“Our studies showed that East Side Plating is doing a remarkable job, as far as scrubbing their air, clean standards, in the transfer of their chemicals," Keita said. "The soil was clean and the air was clean.”

However, asked by Commissioner Dan Saltzman if the city had tested the air for heavy metals — recently found at unhealthy levels near a Central East Side glass factory — Keita was unsure.

The front of Right 2 Dream Too, the urban campground in Downtown Portland.
Kate Black /
The front of Right 2 Dream Too, the urban campground in Downtown Portland.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.