Harvest Century September 22nd

Street Roots’ Israel Bayer on moving Springwater camps: ‘Do it surgically’

Posted by on July 22nd, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Nonprofit newspaper director Israel Bayer.
(Photo: Street Roots)

As the day approaches for a so-called “sweep” of everyone camping along the Springwater Corridor, one of Portland’s leading housing advocates is offering a counterproposal.

Instead of pushing everyone in these informal camps “back into the neighborhoods and downtown,” Street Roots Executive Director Israel Bayer wrote in a column Thursday, the city should (a) increase “organized camping” and (b) “surgically” target only people who are causing problems, not everyone else around them.

“If there are bad actors, get them out of there,” Bayer wrote. “If people are having an environmental impact, give them an ultimatum. Clean your camps up, or be swept.”

“Outside of that, dispersing hundreds of people into the city is absolutely ridiculous and inhumane and won’t actually solve anyone’s problem,” Bayer goes on. “It certainly won’t help people on the road to recovery or being able to access housing.”

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A couple other passages from the column:

Is the Springwater Corridor really unsafe for both the community and people experiencing homelessness?

I would never attempt to say that anyone feeling unsafe isn’t true. No question, it’s a delicate situation. Saying that, it’s not like people experiencing homelessness were safe with or without the Springwater Corridor.

People experiencing homelessness certainly won’t be safe after the corridor is swept. It’s not a kind world out there. …

So, what do we do today? Do we need more shelters?

No, we do not. We need to maintain the shelters we have, but adding more shelters doesn’t get us anywhere.

For one, shelters are expensive. Number two. I would bet the farm that the vast majority of people on the Springwater Corridor wouldn’t access a shelter.

So, what do we need?

Housing. It’s something we can all agree on.

Bayer closes with a call for people to vote yes on November’s affordable housing property tax issue that would “build or acquire” about 1,300 rent-subsidized apartments for low-income people in the city.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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31 Comments
  • Avatar
    Redhippie July 22, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    “So, what do we do today? Do we need more shelters?

    No, we do not. We need to maintain the shelters we have, but adding more shelters doesn’t get us anywhere.

    For one, shelters are expensive. Number two. I would bet the farm that the vast majority of people on the Springwater Corridor wouldn’t access a shelter.”

    I think he is touching on an important point here, that a large majority of the homeless is not really interested in having a roof overhead if it comes with the rules of conformity that society imposes. In this case, primarily no drinking, drugs, fighting, sex, etc.

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      KristenT July 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      Agreed; I’ve never heard, in any media story, that anyone with the City has ever gone down and actually asked the homeless on the Springwater what they want. Building more shelters for people who don’t want them isn’t going to do anything to help the situation.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) July 22, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      Yeah, I appreciated Bayer’s acknowledgment of the complexities.

      But personally I don’t think “a large majority of the homeless” is the same as “the vast majority of people on the Springwater” (Bayer’s phrase).

      Based on the relatively few conversations I’ve had with people staying on the Springwater, I’d agree with Bayer that part of the appeal of the Springwater for some is that you don’t have to follow shelter rules, especially no-drugs rules. But based on the somewhat larger number of conversations I’ve had with people who don’t have roofs of their own, I think a lot of people in that situation are happy and able to stay sober on at least a regular basis if it means staying dry and safe.

      And IMO there is almost nobody who would turn down an actual roof of their own (as opposed to a bed in a shelter) if they could afford it. I don’t stay sober or abstain from sex beneath my own roof! Do you?

      Urban camping ≠ homelessness, and shelter ≠ a home.

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        lop July 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm

        >I don’t stay sober or abstain from sex beneath my own roof!

        Here’s a radical proposal for the city to entertain. A homeless shelter/apartments/collection of tiny houses where if you’re addicted to opiates, you have to either quit or enroll in a study to be run by OHSU or similar on the effects of heroin assisted treatment to rehabilitate long term homeless opiate addicts. Maybe throw in a requirement that you’ve failed to benefit from buprenorphine or similar options in the past. Or have that be the first stage in the study for those who haven’t tried it yet.

        How many of those who would refuse a shelter/social services today would refuse that help if it better accommodated their needs? What accommodations are reasonable to provide is a discussion worth having.

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        James Sherbondy July 22, 2016 at 2:32 pm

        Would you abstain from sex and not being sober if it meant the difference between having a warm dry bed, a shower, and three hot meals a day or not having those things?
        I’m pretty sure I’d be “yes sir, no sir” if would keep me off the street.

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        • Go By Bike
          Go By Bike July 22, 2016 at 6:18 pm

          I think I’d be on the fence, probably couldn’t keep it up for that long.

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      Paul Cone July 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      You had me until the last sentence. I’m guessing a lot of them can easily comply with no substance abuse policies. It’s probably harder to go into a shelter and have to give up your dog. Or maybe just comply with rules if there’s mental instability involved. They’re not all on drugs or drunk.

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      Kat July 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      I actually kind of agree. I was homeless as a teenager (due to parental issues, not running away by choice). I managed to find a way to get a job and apartment, but a lot of people I met didn’t *want* to. There are actually a number or resources out there if you want to get on your feet, but to a good majority, it’s a lifestyle. Still, we should help the people who are willing to contribute to society.

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    Spiffy July 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Springwater residents are welcome at the new shelter: http://katu.com/news/local/homeless-shelter-opening-at-site-of-former-sheriffs-headquarters-in-ne-portland-hansen-building

    yes, many don’t want to go… but if shelter space is available and you’re not using it then you get arrested for public camping… the camping ban is only lifted due to the lack of roofs available…

    I don’t know what the rate of employment is among the homeless, so not sure how effective low-cost housing will be for those with no income… or the ability of those with some income to properly tend to a house…

    asking people to clean up a mess they already know they shouldn’t be making? they simply don’t care or there wouldn’t be a mess… how about citing them for littering?

    this has never been about homelessness to me, it’s about criminals and miscreants destroying the fabric of safety we’ve developed as a civilized society… homeless people have never bothered me… criminals bother me, no matter where they live…

    so yes, move out the bad players, and let the nice tidy ones stay where they want and can…

    or move out all the players, and let the nice ones move back in… nobody complains about the nice ones…

    as cyclists in the transportation game we know the effects of broad sweeps brought on by the actions of a few bad apples… all of society pays the price… we all get swept up… even the nice ones…

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    • Avatar
      lop July 22, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      “If people are having an environmental impact, give them an ultimatum. Clean your camps up, or be swept.”

      asking people to clean up a mess they already know they shouldn’t be making? they simply don’t care or there wouldn’t be a mess… how about citing them for littering?

      “If people are blocking sidewalks when they lock their bikes, give them an ultimatum. Leave the pedestrian through zone clear even if that means parking a block away, or your bikes will be impounded. If people are riding their bikes on the sidewalks downtown when they know they shouldn’t, give them an ultimatum. Ride in the street and walk your on the sidewalk or you’ll be cited.

      asking people to leave room when they already know they should? they simply don’t care or there wouldn’t be a problem… how about citing them for obstructing pedestrian traffic and biking on the sidewalk?

      >or move out all the players, and let the nice ones move back in… nobody complains about the nice ones…

      Ticket all cyclists for rolling stop signs and other technical infractions including biking on the sidewalks downtown/old town. Then cut enforcement back to only the worst offenders.

      >as cyclists in the transportation game we know the effects of broad sweeps brought on by the actions of a few bad apples

      You’d think so, but the comments on bikeportland homeless stories don’t seem to back it up. If the homeless community can’t police their own, then none of them should be allowed to remain. Broken windows policing for thee, not for me.

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    Anna G July 22, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    I disagree with the sentiment “they won’t use shelters even if offered”. First of all, everyone deserves a choice, secondly not all of them are opposed to following rules if it gets them a roof over their heads. And as many have already stated, many couldn’t afford even “affordable housing” if and when its even available. Finally, some of the homeless have stated their opinion in shelter, this from a street roots article, written by a street roots vendor (not a direct link, cut and paste to your browser).

    http://news.streetroots.org/2015/03/04/open-wapato-jail-homeless-tenants-own-dime

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    Jonathan Gordon July 22, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    For all the terrible things I’ve heard said about Charlie Hales re: homelessness, this was refreshing to read:

    It’s impossible for any mayor to get it completely right given the circumstances. It’s quicksand. I do think Charlie Hales has been courageous. Of course, that’s not a popular sentiment on either the left or the right. Still, it’s true. Things are moving on the housing front. Partially that’s the reality of the climate we’re in, partially that’s having a bold city council right now that’s delivering on housing policies that should have been set long ago.

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      Dwk July 22, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Hales is the worst mayor all my years (25) in Portland. An incompetent grifter.
      I have no idea who your quote is from, but calling Hales courageous the dumbest thing I have read all day…

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        Dwk July 22, 2016 at 4:04 pm

        Sorry, I see the quote is from Bayer. I stand by my statement.

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        Jonathan Gordon July 22, 2016 at 4:38 pm

        I’d be a lot more persuaded by your comment if it contained anything aside from ad hominem attacks. Can you say more about why you feel the way you do about Charlie Hales? If you were mayor, given the constraints of budget, staff and space, what would you have done differently?

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          dwk July 22, 2016 at 5:01 pm

          A list could take all day….
          Hales encouraged tent camping in the muck as long as he didn’t have to see them anywhere near his neighborhood.
          He then declared this an “emergency” but of course has never done anything about it until now.
          By the way, for all the newcomers, Charlie was a councilman years ago who quit during his term to lobby for the streetcar companies. He then moved to Washington to escape those pesky Oregon taxes.
          He moved back just in time to run and for gawd knows what reason (no competition) won. He was content to do nothing for 3 years but then decided he wanted to keep his job so the “homeless” issue (which he was somewhat responsible for) became his “crisis” to solve.
          Unfortunately, Wheeler came along to spoil his chances (I am far from alone in my view of Hales), and the rest is history.
          He is now just “sweeping” the problem along for Wheeler to deal with.
          Any other questions?

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            Jonathan Gordon July 25, 2016 at 5:00 pm

            > Hales encouraged tent camping in the muck as long as he didn’t have to see them anywhere near his neighborhood.

            Sounds like ad hominem.

            > He then declared this an “emergency” but of course has never done anything about it until now.

            So Hales was elected mayor in 2012 and came into office with city’s largest-ever budget shortfall — $21 million:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Hales#Mayoral_tenure

            And yet still managed to push for allocating $1.25M in the 2014-2015 budget:

            http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/05/portland_mayor_charlie_hales_p_2.html

            > By the way, for all the newcomers, Charlie was a councilman years ago who quit during his term to lobby for the streetcar companies. He then moved to Washington to escape those pesky Oregon taxes.

            More ad hominem.

            > He moved back just in time to run and for gawd knows what reason (no competition) won. He was content to do nothing for 3 years but then decided he wanted to keep his job so the “homeless” issue (which he was somewhat responsible for) became his “crisis” to solve.

            You’ll note from the article above that The Oregonian were also using crisis in quotes just like you were as far back as 2014. I don’t really know what “crisis” means vs. crisis.

            > Unfortunately, Wheeler came along to spoil his chances (I am far from alone in my view of Hales), and the rest is history.
            He is now just “sweeping” the problem along for Wheeler to deal with.

            Actually, my reading is he’s trying quite hard to deal with a very complex problem, one that doesn’t really have any easy solutions, and is getting beat up from all corners.

            > Any other questions?

            No new questions, just my original one: “If you were mayor, given the constraints of budget, staff and space, what would you have done differently?”

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              dwk July 25, 2016 at 6:54 pm

              You have to be on his staff….. I have never heard anyone defend Hales, no one except his immediate family.
              He did not run again for a reason, Zero support.
              Is the ad hominem?
              Sorry for the tone, but seriously, what bubble do you live in?

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              dwk July 25, 2016 at 6:57 pm

              As far as your question, I am not and have not run for mayor so I don’t need to provide all the answers. Hales declared an emergency which to me means we use whatever funds available for emergencies and get these people off the street.
              You can go back to your PR spin for Charlie….

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                Jonathan Gordon July 25, 2016 at 10:05 pm

                Nope, not on Charlie Hales’ staff nor anyone else’s. I’m just someone who has been following this story here on BikePortland, on NextDoor, on Facebook, etc.

                It seems like I hear lots of folks who seem plenty upset about the situation but what I haven’t read is anyone who actually presents a workable, affordable solution. Given that there are limits on time/space/money it seems to me to be a pretty tough problem to solve. But we seem to love to hate our mayors in this town.

                I get the sense people want Charlie to wave his mayor wand and magically move this huge summer influx of houseless people to either shelter space we don’t have, affordable housing that we also don’t have, and let the legal/penal system handle the rest which we can’t afford.

                So no, you’re not mayor so it’s not your job to solve the problem. But I do think it’s your job to at least think two pieces ahead on the chessboard if you’re going to vocally complain that Charlie Hales hasn’t called checkmate to see if there’s any winning strategies available.

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                dwk July 26, 2016 at 6:13 am

                Buy a damn shelter… What is the problem here except we have a do nothing mayor. I have given answers. a lot of people have. The business community have proposed a shelter at terminal one. Go for it. Action is required and Charlie is not up for it. What exactly is your point?

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                Jonathan Gordon July 29, 2016 at 4:35 pm

                Buying a shelter looks like a possibility for the future:

                http://www.portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2016/07/22/18405306/most-of-city-council-now-supports-a-massive-homeless-shelter-at-nw-portlands-terminal-1

                A finished project is years off, Williams says. In the meantime, Saltzman’s reportedly going to advocate changing up the zoning designation for Terminal 1, then using the warehouse as an emergency shelter space.

                So what do we do in the meantime?

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    Jason July 22, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    No amount of camping is acceptable on spring water. It is dangerous to have people randomly pop out of the bushes with a bike, trailer, a dog and who knows what else in tow as cyclists are using this path for its intended use.

    Imagine if people parked their Winnebago right on the shoulder of I-5?

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      buildwithjoe July 22, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      First off it’s a distortion to say people pop out. They have every right to be there as you, for as long as they like, as long as they don’t take away your right to assemble. Bikes should not be going fast on that trail anyway.

      Second: The Oregon Constitution has tossed out every camping ban they try to enforce when people have access to good lawyers. Article 1, Section 26 says no law shall be passsed…. to restrain… peaceful assembly. These people need our help not false words. They are assembled in peace, they shall not be restrained. Period.

      I wonder who are the 7 people who like your anti homeless distortion Jason. I hope you can read the rule of law.

      Everyone in those camps know the people making it unsafe for bikes and everyone. The cops know. The cops and court are not working hard enough to ban them. But rather than fix the source of the safety problem, a bunch of hate says evict them all. We should highly question the bike and Hood to Coast community for celebrating the removal of humans.

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        Middle of the Road guy July 25, 2016 at 8:54 am

        They do not have a right to be there if they are destroying the area.

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      Chris I July 25, 2016 at 10:56 am

      I had to brake hard and dodge one last Thursday. It is extremely dangerous for people to be emerging from small holes in the bushes when you have runners and cyclists moving at 10-20mph. All of the intersections have pretty good visibility. The small holes in the bushes, not so much.

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    buildwithjoe July 22, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Please tell your friends to join the many volunteer events to help the homeless on the springwater corridor.

    Starting

    When: Sat 10am July 23rd,
    Where: 8106 SE 82nd Ave, Portland, Oregon 97266
    More info here >
    https://www.facebook.com/events/1062110360546790/

    Then at Noon in North Portland Music/Art at Hazelnut grove houseless camp

    link:
    https://www.facebook.com/events/1005654416215505/

    Mr. Maus and Mr. Bayer know about these events, but they forgot.

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    Dwaine Dibbly July 22, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    The day they sweep the Springwater is going to be a day of historic chaos & violence in Portland. Bayer knows it and is trying to prevent a disaster. I wish him luck.

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    rachel b July 22, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Camps pose major public health and environmental health problems. Not a good solution to normalize camping in parks/on paths and trails, for so many reasons. I’m not a little aggravated at Bayer saying “…if there are bad actors…” “If”? ??? Is there any question at this point that there is a significant problem on the Springwater and elsewhere due to “bad actors”? Really–there would be so much less friction between homeless advocates and Portlanders fed up w/ dealing with the “bad actors” if advocates like Bayer would admit it’s real and it’s a problem. Doesn’t have to take away from his message, and it is less crazy-making in general for all involved–esp. the peaceable, law-abiding campers.

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    kittens July 23, 2016 at 1:30 am

    I feel really, really bad for the homeless on the Springwater or wherever they may be, but they have only brought this on themselves. You can’t just ruin a park and expect people not to get upset. Have some respect. Have some dignity if not for your fellow man but for yourself.

    If homeless people choose to live on the street while other options exist, than it is our choice to arrest, fine and exclude them.

    There are a lot of reasons we have a homeless/drug crisis. There are a lot of solutions. But the fact of the matter is that we have people taking over spaces and causing problems for the majority of users so guess who always wins?
    That is sort of how all societal norms work.

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    wsbob July 25, 2016 at 8:51 am

    No question about there being ‘bad actors’, or criminally inclined, behaviorally dysfunctional people living in homeless campsites and in shelters throughout town. Picking up vermin, lice, etc, are among the reasons some people living outside, don’t want to live in either situation.

    Just kicking down the road, all of the people causing camps to not be able to be even marginal housing, will not improve the intolerable conditions many people with very limited means to survive, find themselves obliged to endure.

    Affordable housing, as in ‘a roof over their heads’, is not a bad idea at face value…but who wants to live with the ‘bad actors’? As if it doesn’t already, it’s going to cost the city, its residents…society…a lot more effort, time and money than is spent now, on providing people with very marginal to non-existent personal means of support…decent, even very modest living conditions.

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