On June 7 the City Council will vote on whether to pass a 180-day moratorium on new emergency shelters in Bayside in order to allow shelter licensing to be approved and enacted. This is our letter of support to the Council.
June 2, 2021
To Mayor Snyder and Members of the City Council,
The Bayside Neighborhood Association is in full support of Order 260-20/21 Establishing a 180-Day Moratorium on New Shelters in the Bayside Neighborhood.
We urge you to adopt this targeted, time-bound moratorium in order to ensure that appropriate, sensitive and beneficial shelter licensing may be developed and enacted, free of the pressure or confusion that a new shelter proposal would bring to bear on the process.
The history of Bayside’s poorly integrated social service cluster, developed in the absence of planning, policies, and public process, demonstrates why this moratorium, and licensing, are desperately needed:
• Between 1987 and 2000, the City’s emergency shelter relocated twice and steadily increased capacity from 20 beds to 154 at its present Oxford Street location. All three of the shelter’s locations have been in the Bayside neighborhood.
• The City’s present family and adult emergency shelters, with a combined total of 300 beds, are located within 100′ of each other in a dense R6 neighborhood where emergency shelters are not currently permitted.
• Over the past two decades or so shelters throughout the City closed and to compensate, multiple “temporary” overflow facilities, ultimately comprising over 200 beds, were allowed to open in close proximity to the City shelters and one another without meaningful council involvement, policy development, or community engagement.
• Instead, these increases were recommended by the Emergency Shelter Assessment Committee, an independent group of social service providers, unaccountable to the City. It should be noted that the ESAC of today has not taken a position on this moratorium, nor did the majority of its member agencies, which suggests that in the opinion of some key stakeholders the proposed moratorium would not create any substantive issues or challenges to their work on behalf of individuals experiencing homelessness.
• During these expansions of services Bayside residents and businesses were not given the benefit of the public planning process that occurred elsewhere when shelters opened in other neighborhoods and the Downtown District.
• The conditional use standards for emergency shelters in effect up until 2017 only required that a shelter comply with the city’s housing assistance plan, and be registered with DHHS.
• Many ancillary services sprouted up in the general vicinity of the shelters. Some operated for years under questionable permitting and in a manner that caused excessive and unmitigated community impacts.
Bayside was one of the poorest and most neglected neighborhoods in the City for well over three quarters of a century. In the 1950s the neighborhood was subjected to “slum clearance” and resident displacement. As recently as the 1990s Bayside was identified by US News and World Reports as, by some measures, one of the worst neighborhoods nationwide.
• Segregating marginalized and vulnerable populations into already socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods is a long-standing, intentional practice that’s now recognized as discriminatory, counterproductive, and inherently inequitable.
• Concurrent with the growth in the number of emergency shelter beds the levels of crime, from “low-level” to violent, increased within the boundaries of the Bayside neighborhood while remaining flat in the rest of the City, rising to and remaining at the current level of roughly 20% of the total police calls and 10% of EMS calls for service despite Bayside being 1% of Portland’s landmass and 5% of its population.
Everyone – neighbors, people seeking shelter, and Portland as a whole – has been shortchanged by this lack of planning, care and due diligence. The present urgent need to hit pause via a moratorium is the inevitable result of decades of deferred attention, not a knee-jerk reaction to current circumstances.
This moratorium will not impede or impose restrictions on the operations of any existing shelter, or on shelter planning, development or execution outside of Bayside. It will not harm people experiencing homelessness or delay their progress toward permanent housing. It will be terminated when appropriate licensing has been enacted to correct the historical and existing governance and planning gaps pertaining to emergency shelters in Portland.
What this moratorium will do is allow the City to move forward mindfully, holistically, and justly. It will solidify Portland’s commitment to equitability as it develops licensing to ensure fair distribution of facilities; effective delivery of services; and balanced and safe neighborhoods for all. It will allow Portland to fulfill its explicit and implicit obligations to constituents in neighborhoods where emergency shelters are serving people in need.
The BNA urges you to pass Order 260-20/21.
President, Bayside Neighborhood Association
Bayside Neighborhood Association Board of Directors
Deborah van Hoewyk