City Hall Protesters Meet With Mayor
Responding to an invitation issued by the office of Mayor Tom Potter on Monday, elected representatives from the homeless camp outside City Hall met with the Mayor at 3:00pm Tuesday. Scheduling only a half an hour for the meeting (his press conference was to begin at 3:30pm) Potter sauntered out around 3:50 flustered and red in the face, perhaps upset that the meeting that took two weeks of avid protest to get had lasted more than a half hour.
Arthur Rios, and four other representatives of the homeless camp at City Hall attended the meeting in hopes of discussing their reasons for protesting stated in their letter previously written to Potter. However, when they arrived they were handed a typed response from the Mayor that had been written previous to their meeting. If their was a middle ground to be discussed, or if there was going to be any constructive problem solving, it had apparently been done without actual dialogue with the homeless citizens. Rios reported that the mayor did not address any of their concerns - the need for a green zone, the no camping ordinance or a four week suspension of the SIT LIE ordinance in order to give social services the time to plan more sustainable solutions for the population. Instead, the meeting restated the Mayor's opening of 102 beds (90 for men and 12 for women) and the issue the protest violated public safety and sanitation standards, harping on a supposed heroin needle found in the public use bathrooms in a nearby park and feces/urine on the sidewalk. Of the 90 beds for men, 84 have been filled in less than 2 days, and the women's 12 beds have been filled and there is a waiting list of 45 women. Adding insult to injury, the city hall grounds employees have not reported any substances or needles found stating that "the worst thing they've found was the smell of strong perfume".
The Mayor would make no comment about the possibility of a street sweep to remove the protesters from their peaceful camp, nor would he speak to the citizens' right to protest. Potter continued to reference his 10 year plan to fight homelessness, and the fact that 37 million dollars go towards programming to fight poverty. However, he said very little about the repeal or suspension of the camping ordinance which he claims is a 'a valuable tool' for police and that the violators of said ordinance are only asked to leave or are removed if the police receive a complaint. It is undeniable that this 'valuable tool' is used more often to violate human rights than upon property owner complaint.
So basically, the issues presented by the homeless protest encampment were not addressed, and no compromise nor middle ground has been reached. The opening of the additional 102 beds is obviously not enough for the 150+ homeless sleeping at city hall Monday night. When asked, Potter replied that he would not be willing to present the protesters wishes to suspend the Sit/Lie and Camping ordinances to City Council, whom have the jurisdiction to suspend or repeal said ordinances.
Another exciting day at city hall. There will probably be a promised sweep tonight, followed by a renewed protest in some form tomorrow, perhaps a relocation of the camp or a return to the city hall sidewalk... Expect more updates soon.
PCAP - Portland Coalition Against Poverty (a newly, newly forming group to organize against poverty in PDX)