BNA Shelter Policy Resolution Support Letter to the City Council

The 16-member Board of the BNA voted unanimously to approve this letter of support for the Shelter Policy Resolution that paves the way for a new homeless services center to replace the Oxford Street Shelter

To Members of the Portland City Council,

Portland’s current model of aiding the homeless with services strewn haphazardly over several blocks becomes more outmoded, ineffective, inhumane and unsustainable with each passing day. It does not reflect current federally endorsed best practices or what Portland is capable of achieving. For Portland to effectively support those experiencing homelessness the City must immediately begin design and construction of a modern homeless services center at the approved site in Riverton.  

Therefore the Bayside Neighborhood Association supports the Resolution Outlining Policy Goals For The City of Portland’s Single-Adult Shelter Facility as passed unanimously by the Health and Human Services Committee. The resolution reflects years of work, education, dedication and a determination to not repeat mistakes of the past. We ask you to vote passage on this resolution when it comes before you.

We further urge you to reject substantive amendments (such as 5, 8, 9 &12) that have been proposed by Councilor Kim Cook on the basis that they would:

  • Distort the purpose, scope and impact of the original resolution
  • Indefinitely delay the replacement of the Oxford Street Shelter (8)
  • Needlessly perpetuate the ever-worsening community crisis that has been created by operating out of the current failing facility (8)
  • Fail to provide an appropriate number of beds and level of service to achieve the primary goal of adequately sheltering those in need and improving the way Portland addresses homelessness (8 ,9, 12)
  • Result in a facility that is over capacity and ineffective as soon as it opens thereby replicating the same problems it was built to solve (8, 9)
  • Continue to unnecessarily strain the City’s public health and safety resources by failing to adequately support vulnerable populations
  • Shift Portland’s focus from dealing with the immediate crisis to imagining a shelter network for the entire state (5)
  • Distance the city from the daily reality of shelter operations and the impacts they may be having on the surrounding neighborhood (15)
  • Worsen the already unsustainable pressure on the Bayside neighborhood 

The express intention of the resolution is to formalize guidance thus paving the way for Portland to enter the modern era of homeless services. Councilor Cook’s wholesale alteration of Item 8 and elimination of Item 9 eviscerate those intentions and instead propose that forces beyond the City’s control continue to shape Portland’s destiny.  

Efforts to garner statewide support are vitally important but do not excuse the City from taking  immediate and decisive action. Failure to do so will leave the City in the unfortunate position of having to defend its choice to allow an acknowledged community crisis and public nuisance to continue unabated. This is not like the paid sick leave initiative, where the City could reasonably defer action because the state was poised to act. There is no magical solution in the offing, and the stakes are too high to put off this decision any longer.

The original resolution and new homeless services center model, Shelter 2.0, will position Portland as a leader in effective, efficient delivery of services via federally endorsed best practices. It will allow us to become an example to follow instead of a cautionary tale. Most important, this facility will give shelter staff breathing room and resources to do their best work so clients have the dignity and support they need to quickly transition out of homelessness and into permanent housing.

The deficiencies of the existing city shelter were obvious twenty years ago, yet action was not taken. We are now living the consequences of allowing distortions, objections, assumptions and projected fears to drive the narrative about homelessness and prevent progress. This council has the rare opportunity to memorialize its tenure with a truly transformative decision.

 We ask you to respect the expertise, research, and documented history of the process that has brought us to this point. We strenuously urge you to reject any amendment, alteration, or suggestion that delays the design and construction of the Riverton homeless services center, downgrades its capacity or compromises its mission. We ask you to choose a legacy of leadership. 

Building the homeless services center in Riverton, based on policy guidance in the resolution before you, is the next step toward equity for all citizens and neighborhoods in Portland. The Board of the Bayside Neighborhood Association asks you to take that step, and the next, and the next until we enter the future through the doors of the new homeless services center in Riverton.


Sarah Michniewicz
President, Bayside Neighborhood Association