Mayor Charlie Hales has been negotiating for months with the Portland Public School (PPS) system about using a piece of land owned by the PPS for a Homeless Navigation Center. The property is located in a heavily residential and very popular area at SE 12th and Morrison. Dozens of retail stores and hundreds of Portland residents work or live in close proximity to the proposed location, a location already besieged by homeless residents who get handouts and refuge at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

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Hales fits right in with the homeless population, preferring to work in the shadows, out of the public eye.

The terms

While it is difficult to know exactly what stage the negotiations are in between the City of Portland and the PPS Superintendent Carole Smith, one thing is abundantly clear: the public has had little to no input on the planning to this point.

The terms of the agreement are not easy to find, but it’s rumored that in exchange for PPS not charging the City rent for the facility, PPS will get bus passes for all employees. So, while Hales gets to push his agenda forward rent free on a property valued at nearly $4,000,000, employees of PPS get a free ride. In addition, funding for police officers to protect school buildings is also part of the package. There is no mention of funding additional police to protect the businesses and residents in the vicinity, who are certain to see an increase in crime. It would seem the local businesses and residents are also getting a ride, or should we say being taken for a ride?

Any statistics?

In a very poorly publicized meeting (if you don't tell anyone, no one shows up) held on May 3rd with Charlie Hales and Mark Jolin of Homes for Everyone, the two discussed their vision for the facility.

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They discussed their desire to help families get off the streets, rid themselves of drug and alcohol addiction, and become reintegrated with the workforce. Lofty goals to be certain, and based off of a similar facility in San Francisco. However, when Hales and Jolin were asked by the public attending the meeting for statistics on the success of the San Francisco facility, they brushed off the question and simply said they would make them available. In fact, there is not a single piece of publicly available literature produced by either the City of Portland or the PPS which provides a single piece of information on the proposal. The deal has been negotiated under the cover of darkness, as public opposition to the plan is certain to be staunch. The Buckman neighborhood is already plagued by the denizens of the night, and despite being a “good neighborhood” has some of the highest crime in the city. The currency of the streets is bikes, packages left by UPS, and anything that can be taken after breaking the window of a parked car.

The Homeless Navigation Center is certain to attract many more homeless folks, and increase crime significantly. But, Hales doesn’t care about that. He will be long gone from his tenure as Mayor by the time the facility is built and it will be up to his predecessors to fix the problems.

What next?

Unfortunately, the public has very little say in the politics of the City. Mayor Hales has a link on his website allowing anyone to schedule a meeting with the Mayor. However, he’s got zero intention of actually meeting with anyone. Instead, responses will come from “Constituent Relations” personnel, trained and highly skilled at deflecting questions and directing you to the many layers of Portland bureaucracy to try and find help for whatever it is you wanted to speak to the Mayor about. However, it’s easy to contact Carole Smith, Superintendent of Portland Public Schools. Opponents, or the few supporters that may be out there, can contact her directly at 503-916-3200 or email superintendent at apps net. If you don’t speak your mind, you can’t complain about not being heard. So pick up the phone and voice your opinion, regardless of what side of the argument it is on.