City Council Testimony, Oct 3, 2018

Elliott Young, Annette Johnson, Leo Rhodes, Kimberley McCullough and Sarah Iannarone

5 Things the City Can Do to Respond to Homelessness with Compassion


1)   Develop a robust group of first-responders who are trained to deal with mental health and addiction crises who would be the ones to connect people living on the streets with services.  These first-responders could also address livability issues like needles in parks, garbage in neighborhoods, and low-level theft if victims did not want to involve the police.


2)   Declare a moratorium on sweeps of homeless camps. Until we can offer adequate alternatives, sweeping people from one part of the city is just an expensive and harmful way to deal with the housing crisis.


3)   Provide basic services for hygiene for people living on the street, including restrooms, water, and garbage disposal.  Many of resident complaints stem from the lack of adequate infrastructure for people living on the streets. Addressing basic needs will solve a great part of the problem.


4)   Legalize temporary camps on city-owned property, as well as providing services to make them clean, safe and viable. There are already successful examples of city-sanctioned camps so let’s expand  this model.


5)   Track arrests of homeless people, publish data on a city website, and hold responsible parties accountable for achieving a drastic reduction of arrests.  We should not have to rely on the investigative journalism of the Oregonian to learn basic facts about how the city deals with its homeless population.

  • Compassion 4 Homeless PDX

Potties for the People

There are many facets to the homelessness problem, including housing, mental health and addiction services, jobs, and living wages, but one of the urgent issues facing anyone living on the streets is finding a place to go to the bathroom.

Urinating and defecating are just basic human functions, and if there are no public toilets, guess what? Those people will still need to urinate and defecate, and it’s likely they will do so in a park or on the street.

We have been meeting with the city officials and the Central Eastside Industrial Council (CEIC) to try to find a solution to this urgent need, especially on the East side where there are very few public restrooms. From what we can tell, the city has drawn up various plans, investigated several options, and has not moved forward with any of them. In the meantime, people will go on being human and producing waste. They won’t be holding it in until the city bureaucrats decide to act.

Some of the board members of the CEIC have expressed interest in helping to fund a solution for public restrooms. And yet there seems to be a lack of coordination with the people in the city who are charged with finding such solutions. In the meantime, here are two modest proposals for what people in Portland can do without the permission of the city hall bureaucrats.

POTTIES FOR THE PEOPLE 1) Starbucks has a policy of allowing anyone to use their restrooms (even those who are not customers). If Starbucks can do it, surely progressive Portland businesses can similarly open their restrooms to the homeless. I know that I don't have any problems walking into local businesses and using their restrooms, but my guess is that homeless folks are not treated similarly. Perhaps many businesses do welcome the homeless. It would be great if they could be publicly recognized for their generosity.


2) Since the city is awash in construction sites and remodeling projects, why don't owners leave their port-o-potties unlocked and put a sign on them saying "Everyone is Welcome." I understand that doing so comes with some risk that the port-o-potties will be misused, but not providing public restrooms guarantees that our neighborhoods will be filled with human waste.

The public restroom problem is not unique to Portland. And opinion piece from Tom Cartwright in San Diego that suggests businesses open their restrooms to everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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