This Week in the Mercury

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Food and Drink

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

The Restaurants This Critic Returned to on Her Own Time and Dime in 2014


The Best of Charlie Hales' Voicemails

News

The Best of Charlie Hales' Voicemails

Portland's Mayor Apparently Gave You All Plenty to Complain About This Year



Homeless

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Homeless Advocate Marc Jolin is Leaving JOIN for the County

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Marc Jolin, one of Portland's most visible advocates for the homeless, will leave his current position as director of the organization JOIN to take a job with Multnomah County next month.

The brand new position, as the director of a new county-wide board focused on ending homelessness, will take Jolin away from the street-level fight that JOIN is known for. The organization helps people find permanent housing, and is often a first point of contact for homeless people in the County seeking out the limited services available.

Despite that relative remove, Jolin says his role at the helm of the county's new A Home for Everyone initiative, presents an unprecedented chance to turn the tide.

"I will move to spending all my work time on public policy," Jolin tells the Mercury. "We’ve got so many people on our streets. When we have an opportunity like this where we’re all able to come together, I think we’ve gotta take it."

Recent figures suggest roughly 1,800 people in Multnomah County are homeless.

First announced in 2013, A Home for Everyone involves a wide swath of officials from Multnomah County, the City of Portland, the City of Gresham, business leaders, social services and others collaborating on finding new resources and strategies to stymie homelessness. It's a similar concept to the Local Public Safety Coordinating Councils—boards of justice officials from a variety of departments and disciplines—that come together around the state to address public safety challenges. And Jolin says it's the first time all those voices have been around the same table regarding the houseless.

The board's been meeting since late June, and has landed on a number of issues it wants to focus on. Among them: finding more resources for homeless veterans and homeless children, creating new emergency shelters, and steering assistance from the Affordable Care Act to the county's transient population.

As JOIN's executive director, Jolin has co-chaired the Home for Everyone executive board. Starting January 12, he'll start part-time as its director, moving to full time in February. JOIN has yet to select its next director.

"We have a whole new governance structure," Jolin says. "Part of my task will be to help with transitioning and figure out whether we need to go further."

For that work, Jolin will earn $87,000 a year—a salary to be split by the city and county. That's roughly $10,000 more than he made in his job at JOIN, according to the organization's most recent tax filings. The position, as currently envisioned, will only last a year, though that could change.

Jolin is a Portland native and a long-time advocate for the homeless here. He's helmed JOIN since 2006, and before that worked on homelessness issues as an attorney—working with both the Oregon Law Center and the firm Perkins Coie.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

That Unmarked Homeless Storage Facility is Getting an Address!

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 4:53 PM

Indulge us again, won't you, in the confusing circumstances of the small, unmarked, and unkempt property on SW Barbur where the city stores valuables confiscated from homeless campers.

PPS_prop_pickup_2.JPG

Yesterday, we asked Portland Fire & Rescue about the Portland Water Bureau-owned property, and were told something surprising: there were no records of this squat, 64-year-old pump station being inspected by fire officials. And a newer, bigger pump station behind it? No records there, either.

We'd called to ask about the building not having any address signage (a violation of city code, and potentially confusing for people trying to find it), but instead were left puzzling over the fact it apparently hadn't been gone over every two years by fire officials. So we wrote about it, and then this afternoon got a call from Fire Marshal Nate Takara. It was a mistake, he says, for one of their staffers to say the fire bureau has not inspected these buildings. It has—as recently as December 2012—and they've been blemish-free the whole time!

So why did someone else say the opposite yesterday? Because the fire bureau had the wrong addresses entered into its system for the two buildings. Or anyway, different addresses. When telling homeless campers where to pick up their things, the city gives the address 9748 SW Barbur. That same address, entered into the city's PortlandMaps site, yields information about the correct property.

But for some reason, Takara says fire had the property listed under 9739 SW 40th, which doesn't turn up anything on PortlandMaps. Same for the newer pump station behind it, Takara says. They had them listed under the wrong address. He couldn't explain the disagreements, but noted the buildings are situated on an odd triangle of land.

The fire bureau says both buildings are squeaky clean, with no history of violations. I asked about the fact that the small pump station doesn't have any address sign attached, and Takara didn't know why that wouldn't be flagged. He suggested the signage might have been removed in the last two years, but had no information that might be the case.

Anyway, the address question—which got us into this in the first place—is changing today, says water bureau spokesperson Tim Hall.

"I’m told the Bureau of General Services – Facilities Operations is placing address numbers on the building today along with a more detailed sign on how people can collect their belongings from the space being used for such storage," Hall wrote in an e-mail.

He also offered new information about the little building. I've been calling it a house, because that's what it looks like. See?

NOT A HOUSE
  • NOT A HOUSE

Hall says that's wrong. In fact, it's a pump station and has only ever been a pump station. It was merely designed—like similar stations around the country—to appear to be a house, Hall says.

"For years, the office space has been used by Water Bureau field employees who, working in the area, used it as a place to stop to eat lunch or use the restroom," he wrote.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Not Snowing. It's Still Terrible Outside. More Warming Centers and Shelters Have Opened to Help

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 5:10 PM

We're staring at another night with temperatures below freezing, never mind wind chills making things worse. And the rain and sleet we've had today, in the wake of the snowpocalypse that wasn't, seems primed to turn to ice.

In short? It's still going to be incredibly dangerous for neighbors living on the street.

The housing bureau just sent out an alert promising to make sure enough shelter space is available for the next several days so no one in need is turned away. And to make sure those spaces are filled, the housing bureau's working with agencies and nonprofits and other city bureaus to fan out and find people in need—and then take them to shelter whenever and as often as possible.

For the latest info on what's open and where, check 211info.org or call 211. Since we last posted on Tuesday, several more centers have opened, including some outside of downtown or close-in neighborhoods across the Willamette.

We've pasted the latest roster in below. Share this info with anyone who needs it and keep combing your closets for blankets and coats and jackets and hats you can live without.

Family Winter Shelter

16141 E Burnside Street, Portland (near 162nd Avenue)
This is a walk-in facility. It is not necessary to call beforehand. No one will be turned away.
Dates: Seven nights a week throughout winter season
Hours: 7pm - 7am, Open all day Thursday, November 13
Serves: Families with children under 18 and women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy

Portland Rescue Mission

111 W. Burnside Street, Portland
Additional beds available for winter shelter
Dates: Seven nights a week throughout winter season
Hours: Entry to year-round beds 5:45pm, winter beds 8pm
Serves: Adult males

CityTeam International

526 SE Grand Avenue, Portland
Note: The usual $5 fee is waived during severe weather.
Dates: Seven nights a week throughout winter season
Hours: 5:45pm - 7am
Serves: Adult males

Salvation Army Female Emergency Shelter (SAFES)

30 SW 2nd Avenue, Portland, 503-227-0810
Dates: Seven nights a week throughout winter season
Hours: 6pm - 8am
Serves: Adult female identified

Red Cross Severe Weather Emergency Warming Center at Imago Dei Church

1302 Ankeny Street, Portland (near 13th Avenue in inner SE)
This is a walk-in facility. Pets allowed, some space for carts, accessible location
Dates: Evening of Thursday, November 13
Hours: 9pm - 7am
Serves: Families, single adults, and youth

St John's Covenant Church Anawim Christian Community

6265 N Columbia Way, Portland
Dates: Evening of Thurday, November 13
Hours: 4pm - 8am
Serves: Adults, limited space for families, pets allowed

Sanctuary Church Anawim Christian Community

19626 NE Glisan Street, Portland
Dates: Evening of Friday, November 14
Hours: 7pm - 7am
Serves: Adults, limited space for families, pets allowed

St. Francis Dining Hall

330 SE 11th Avenue, Portland
Dates: Evening of Thursday, November 13
Hours: Drop-in Center will be open through the night of Wednesday, November 12
Serves: Adults

Transition Projects

650 NW Irving Street, Portland
Dates: Evening of Thursday, November 13
Hours: Day Center will be open through the night
Serves: Adults

Union Gospel Mission

15 NW 3rd Avenue, Portland, 503-228-0319
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Evenings of Thursday, November 13
Hours: 9:30pm - 6am
Serves: Families, single adults, and youth

The following expanded day center services are available during the severe weather notice:

Family Winter Shelter

16141 E Burnside Street, Portland (near 162nd Avenue)
This is a walk-in facility. It is not necessary to call beforehand. No one will be turned away.
Dates: Seven nights a week throughout winter season
Hours: 7am - 7pm, Thursday, November 13
Serves: Families with children under 18 and women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy

CityTeam International

526 SE Grand Avenue, Portland
Note: The usual $5 fee is waived during severe weather.
Dates: Thursday, November 13
Hours: 6am - 6:30pm
Serves: Families, male and female individuals

Dignity Village

9401 NE Sunderland Avenue, Portland, 503-281-1604
Dates: 7 days a week throughout the winter season
Hours: 8am - 10pm
Serves: Adults

Salvation Army Female Emergency Shelter (SAFES)

30 SW 2nd Avenue, Portland, 503-227-0810
Dates: Seven days a week throughout winter season
Hours: 7am - 9pm
Serves: Adult female identified

St. Francis Dining Hall

330 SE 11th Avenue, Portland
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Thursday, November 13
Hours: 8am - 8:45pm
Serves: Adults

Union Gospel Mission

15 NW 3rd Avenue, Portland, 503-228-0319
This is a walk-in facility. Meal will be served.
Dates: Thursday, November 13 and Friday, November 14
Hours: 9:30am - noon and 2pm - 5pm
Serves: Families, single adults, and youth

JOIN

1435 NE 81st Avenue Suite 100, Portland
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Thursday, November 13 and Friday, November 14
Hours: 8:30am - 5pm (TH), 8:30am - 3pm (F)
Serves: Families, single adults, and youth

Rose Haven

627 NW 18th Avenue, Portland, 503-248-6364
Dates: Thursday, November 13 and Friday, November 14
Hours: 8am - 4pm
Serves: Women and children, single women included

St. Andre Bessette Catholic Church Hospitality Center

601 W Burnside Street, Portland
Dates: Thursday, November 13
Hours: 9:30am - 11:30am and 12:30pm - 3:30pm
Serves: Adults

Monday, June 23, 2014

Portland's Urban Renewal Agency Has a Deal in Place to Purchase Right 2 Dream Too's Old Town Lot

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Another looming shoe seems ready to drop in the long-running saga over Right 2 Dream Too's quest to trade its land on NW 4th and Burnside for a more permanent home.

According to city documents (pdf) obtained by the Mercury, the Portland Development Commission will vote as soon as this Wednesday on a tentative deal to purchase the rest area's site from its current landlords, a group led by longtime city foil and adult businessman Michael Wright. The negotiated price is $1.2 million—about what an appraisal of the land found last fall, when sales talks suddenly got hot.

The deal, as listed in documents laying out the proposed sale, also directly addresses the status of Right 2 Dream Too, a rest area/tent shelter and community for advocates for the homeless. The PDC will wait to find a new home for R2DToo—paying Wright an additional $300,000, based on $10,000 a month for up to 30 months, before officially closing the sale. The expectation is Wright will negotiate with R2DToo and "other interested parties," ostensibly including Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Charlie Hales.

The Property is currently occupied by the Right-to-Dream-Too camp (R2D2). There have been active conversations between the City of Portland (City) and R2D2, including an action by the Portland City Council in February 2014 approving a settlement deal which directed $846,000 to R2D2 to help them find a new and more permanent home. The PDC Board of Commissioners (Board) took action on February 12, 2014, authorizing the execution of a PSA with Pearl Hotel Investors, LLC, for the conveyance of Station Place Lot 7 contingent upon that separate City agreement referenced above. The contemplated transaction includes a 30 month option period designed to allow for PDC to conduct due diligence on the Property, provide PDC time to evaluate development options prior to taking title, and to provide time for the Owners, R2D2, and other partners and stakeholders to identify a new home for R2D2.

But from there it gets tricky. Wright will have to give back that $300,000 if the 30 months expire and R2DToo is still on the land, giving him some motivation to help move the rest area. But if that happens, the PDC might agree to continue delaying the sale or cancel the agreement outright. Right 2 Dream Too has $846,000 available—thanks to a deal with Pearl District developers who didn't want them moving beneath a Broadway Bridge off-ramp—to eventually find a new home.

A message left with Wright has not been returned. Wright used to run an adult bookstore on the land, but it was torn down amid a code fight with former City Commissioner Randy Leonard. He initially hosted Right 2 Dream Too to poke at city hall.

The agreement is seen as a linchpin in the PDC's and Hales' efforts to promote Old Town as a destination for tech businesses and workforce housing—and build up the area's many, many vacant lots. PDC says it will take the 30 months to ponder a good use for the property, potentially marquee location on one of Portland's busiest streets.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

It's Cheaper to House the Homeless Than Not House Them (In Case Economics Is More Important to You Than Empathy)

Posted by Anna Minard on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Here's Matthew Yglesias over at Vox on a fascinating new report out of Florida analyzing the costs of housing—and not housing—the homeless:

A new study is out providing support to one of my favorite ideas in public policy—that the best way to deal with the challenge of homelessness is to give homeless people homes to live in. To some it sounds utopian and it's natural to worry about the cost, but a great deal of evidence suggests that it would be cheaper to house the homeless than to let them languish on the streets and deal with the aftermath.

The latest is a Central Florida Commission on Homelessness study indicating that the region spends $31,000 a year per homeless person on "the salaries of law-enforcement officers to arrest and transport homeless individuals—largely for nonviolent offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication or sleeping in parks—as well as the cost of jail stays, emergency-room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues."

Guess how much the study found it would cost, per year, to give each person a place to live and a caseworker to keep an eye on them? Just $10,000. So it costs less than a third as much to just house people than it does to repeatedly arrest them for doing a bunch of normal human behavior that's illegal to do in public but totally not illegal to do inside your own home, like sleep and drink and pee? And to then also pay for the inevitable physical and mental health issues that arise or are aggravated when you live on the street and keep getting fucking arrested for sleeping or peeing or drinking? GEE WHIZ, WHO COULD'VE SEEN THAT COMING?!?

Yglesias again:

When it comes to the chronically homeless, you don't need to fix everything to improve their lives. You don't even really need new public money. What you need to do is target those resources at the core of the problem—a lack of housing—and deliver the housing, rather than spending twice as much on sporadic legal and medical interventions. And the striking thing is that despite the success of housing first initiatives, there are still lots of jurisdictions that haven't yet switched to this approach. If Central Florida and other lagging regions get on board, we could take a big bite out of the remaining homelessness problem and free up lots of resources for other public services.

There are some interesting graphs about the national decline in homelessness after federal policy started shifting toward a housing-first model. Go read the whole thing.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Month and a Half In, City "Clean-Up Contractors" Have Only Responded to a False Alarm

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Halfway through a three-month contract to clean up illegal homeless camps on city property, local security firm Pacific Patrol Services hasn't been sent to a single actual campsite.

As of Monday, PPS had only been dispatched once, on April 29, to what city records show was a false alarm. Cops had received a tip someone was camping in a small park in a traffic circle at NE 102nd and Weidler. It looks like this:

When clean-up staff got to the traffic circle, it only found run-of-the-mill rubbish. "Just empty bottles and food containers," according to Abby Coppock, a spokeswoman for the city's Office of Management and Finance, which oversees the PPS contract. "There was no personal property collected."

It's not clear what the city paid for the service, which documents indicate involved an hour of work. Portland's contract with PPS says the contractor will receive $703.24 per day of work, and does not appear to account for smaller units. (We're still waiting to hear back on cost).

Mayor Charlie Hales' office announced the campsite clean-up contract in early April. The mayor's office has emphasized enforcement of Portland's camping ban since last year. But clean-up of those sites fell to city bureaus who owned the land, and they often had more-pressing tasks on their plates. And there wasn't a formal, centralized system by which rousted campers could retrieve their belongings. Hales' office says the PPS contract could change that.

But the plan drew concern from some homeless advocates, who fear the city's homeless are already leery of private security guards that patrol properties throughout downtown. So the city held off on dispatching clean-up contractors until, it says, they'd been properly trained.

Under the contract—which expires in June, and can't exceed $35,000—PPS will respond to campsites on city land once alerted by a bureau. In order to legally dismantle a site, officials need to post warning at least 24 hours in advance. The clean-up must be completed within seven days of that posting, Gibson said. The city's goal is within 48 hours.

PPS is also required to document thoroughly all items it confiscates and throws away, and to submit pictures of campsites before cleaning them up. If the site's resident is on hand, workers must give them an hour to take their possessions before work commences. And PPS will maintain a repository—on a site the city provides—where homeless people can arrange to pick up their belongings.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Anti-Camping/Structures Laws Can Now Be Used to Arrest People

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Panhandle.jpg
  • Adam Wickham

The Multnomah County District Attorney's office has formally scrapped a controversial enforcement program aimed at problematic nuisance crimes.

But to say the Chronic Offender Pilot Project is dead isn't quite accurate. Its heart beats on in a robust new enforcement policy unveiled by the DA's office today, and the consequences might be big for Multnomah County's homeless.

First, a review: The COPP, revealed by the Mercury in February, sought to stiffen penalties against people—many of them homeless—who committed quality of life crimes in the downtown core or Lloyd District.

Under the policy, cops could issue a warning to people caught littering or drinking/urinating in public. Then, if officers caught the same person doing one of those things later on, they could arrest the person for "interfering with a police officer." That meant a trip to jail and a court date, plus an arrest warrant if offenders failed to show up. People who satisfied court requirements for treatment would have their charges dismissed.

The policy angered at least one city commissioner, and drew criticism from public defenders and civil liberties advocates. And the Mercury's inquiry brought to light that police had been mistakenly using COPP to arrest people for sidewalk violations, which was never intended.

Less than two months later, COPP is over with, says Chuck Sparks, a chief deputy in the district attorney's office. And while he argues the policy that's sprouted up in its place is a whole new effort, it's mostly distinguished by a broad expansion of the old program.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

KGW Employee Goes In-Depth On Old Town Poop for Vice

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Old Town Chinatown is on everyone's mind lately.

The Oregonian recently published a series looking at its challenges, and the proposed economic development that could take it from dingy and underused to a haven for "workforce housing." And the city was abuzz last week after Mayor Charlie Hales announced popular vacation listing site Airbnb is moving its North American headquarters into the neighborhood.

Even Vice is chiming in, with a dispatch from KGW employee Evan Sernoffsky titled: "Portland's Iconic Old Town Chinatown Is Overflowing With Human Shit." Therein, Sernoffsky chronicles in great detail the time someone shat in front of Kell's. He talks of alcoves filled with "drooling junkies" and the indignity of having to observe squalor while ordering donuts. (Sernoffsky has taken a somewhat more-measured approach to the issue when reporting locally.) From the piece:

Last week, I ran into Carl panhandling downtown. I gave him some change and asked if we could talk about all the poop in Old Town Chinatown. After he rambled in his semi-coherent drawl, we took a walk to the Pioneer Square Mall so he could take a dump.

I work in Old Town, and have for years. I'm not sure I've ever seen human shit on the sidewalk. But who could be surprised that it happens? The neighborhood—like neighborhoods in medium and large cities the world over—has a lot of homeless people, and even three relatively nearby Portland loos aren't going to attract everyone. Even if Old Town were truly "overflowing," though, that's really worth 1,300 words? Without any substantive discussion about how the situation might be changed or improved? Am I overreacting to/overthinking what is, in essence, long-form trolling?

At any rate, Vice has a decent track record of feces coverage (and, to be fair, the Mercury's no stranger to the topic) so its raison d'etre needn't be much more than sidewalk poop.

Thoughts?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Woman Found Dead at Right 2 Dream Too; Her Worried Husband Says He'd "Wanted Her to Lay Down"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 5:27 PM

A woman was found dead this afternoon at Right 2 Dream Too—the rest area for the homeless at NW 4th and Burnside—possibly after overdosing on methadone and taking other medications for ailments including embolisms and congestive heart failure, according to her husband and other witnesses.

Emma Dreier, 45, was found unresponsive in the rest area's couple's tent around 3:30, after her husband, Don Perkins, 54, said he was unable to rouse her. They had walked over to Right 2 Dream Too around 1 pm from the Portland Rescue Mission. Perkins told me he could tell Dreier wasn't feeling well, possibly after overdosing on her medication, and that he turned to Right 2 Dream Too because he thought she needed a place to sleep.

"I wanted her to lay down," Perkins said. "She'd been taking other pills with her medication. She was addicted to opiates."

Dreier's death is the first at Right 2 Dream Too, which opened in October 2011, just shy of two and a half years ago. It has a steady contingent of 20 or so members who help run the site, but serves as a refuge for 70 to 80 overnight sleepers every day who come for 12-hour stints in a handful of common tents.

Members and others rushed to help Dreier, attempting CPR, until firefighters and paramedics showed up and tried to revive Dreier. Israel Bayer of Street Roots was the first to mention, via Twitter, that someone had died. Drugs and vice detectives followed rescuers to check whether Dreier had taken non-prescribed and/or illegal drugs. Forensics techs had also descended on the camp, but a medical examiner had yet to retrieve her body when I left a bit before 5.

Medical and police calls to Right 2 Dream Too have been decidedly rare, compared with traditional shelter providers in downtown—a finding in a Mercury story on dispatched 911 calls this winter. The Tribune also reported in January that 28 people had died at the $47 million Bud Clark Commons shelter and apartments through June of last year.

Perkins said he didn't mention that he thought Dreier had maybe taken too many pills when they came to Right 2 Dream Too and wasn't sure whether his wife had overdosed accidentally or on purpose. He also wasn't sure when she might have taken her medicine: "She didn't tell me. I just could tell by the way she was acting."

He said they've been married since November 11, 2001, and had been together in Portland since 2002. They've been homeless for the past two years. Dreier was struggling not only with her physical ailments and opiate addiction, but also her mental health, he said.

"She's tried to kill herself a number of times," via overdosing, he says. "They'd revive her and she'd go to Providence and they'd let her out and they didn't take it seriously."

Taking the pills, he said, was a way of coping. The heart failure, especially, he said, was bothering her. "It scared her."

Right 2 Dream Too has closed its tents for overnight sleepers for the time being. Eight other people in the common tents had to be woken up and moved out. Members were consoling one another on the sidewalk outside while the police and technicians did their work. It wasn't clear whether they'd reopen tonight, co-founder Ibrahim Mubarak says, pending a meeting with members and the completion of the police investigation.

Update 5:45 PM: Greg Margolis, a spokesman for Right 2 Dream Too, says the medical examiner has come and gone, and so have detectives and forensics technicians. That raises the chance the rest area will open as usual tonight; members had been expecting the authorities to linger for several hours longer.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Right 2 Dream Too Co-Founder Says Cops Mocked His Religion After His Arrest

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Ibrahim Mubarak
  • Ibrahim Mubarak
Ibrahim Mubarak, co-founder of Right 2 Dream Too and Dignity Village, was told during his arraignment hearing today to keep out of the University of Oregon parking lot beneath the Burnside Bridge—the scene of his arrest last night while confronting a police officer and several security guards.

But Mubarak—after pleading not guilty to charges of interfering with a peace officer and criminal trespass—promptly told reporters outside court that he had other plans: "Of course," he told reporters when asked if he'd ignore the order by Judge John Wittmayer. Mubarak says he and other homelessness advocates aren't done helping some of the people who've been sleeping under the bridge in recent weeks.

"That's my job," he says. "They're trying to stop me."

Mubarak also made a disquieting accusation about what happened after he was taken into custody. When told he wouldn't sign papers under his birth name, Keith Jackson, because he changed his name to Ibrahim Mubarak upon converting to Islam several years ago, he said officers mocked him and put him in a small, cold holding cell until he changed his mind.

"When I told them that's not my name, they told me they're not going to call me what Ali Baba named me," Mubarak says, "that they'd call me what my mama called me. I stayed in there for four hours."

In court, he was called under his birth name, but referred to throughout as Mr. Mubarak. His case came up after several other misdemeanors, mostly for charges like driving under the influence and shoplifting.

Mubarak says conditions for the people sleeping beneath the bridge have been rougher and rougher over the past few weeks. Guards and police officers have been moving people off the parking lot and onto sidewalks, and then warning people about trespassing arrests, or worse, if they get up in the night to use the bathroom and set foot on the U of O lot again. He says people who cops and guards don't see as homeless have been allowed to walk through at the same time, however.

"I was irritating her by standing my ground" last night, Mubarak says of the officer who ordered him arrested. "I'm going to fight this case."

Right 2 Dream Too Co-Founder Arrested Last Night While Confronting Cops

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 1:14 AM

Ibrahim Mubarak, a Right 2 Dream Too co-founder, was arrested last night and booked into the main jail after he and a group of advocates reportedly confronted police officers who'd been cracking down on some of the homeless folks who'd been gathering in recent weeks beneath the Burnside Bridge.

Mubarak—booked under his legal birth name, Keith Jackson—faces one count of interfering with a peace officer, a class A misdemeanor, and one count of trespassing.

Interfering with a peace officer is the same charge, ironically, that police and prosecutors are using to target nuisance crimes among the homeless, as the Mercury first reported. Because of the Mercury's reporting, the DA's office yesterday acknowledged that police had mistakenly been applying the program to sidewalk violations. A memo telling police of the mistake also went out yesterday.

News of Mubarak's arrest spread on Facebook through advocacy group Right 2 Survive. Trillium Shannon, a Right 2 Dream Too board member, posted that Mubarak and others had gone to the Burnside Bridge after hearing a steady drip of reports about police and private guards rousting the groups that had gathered under the bridge at night.

Screen_shot_2014-02-28_at_12.53.04_AM.png

Update 7:30 AM: Here's a link to video showing Mubarak's arrest and what led to it. It shows private security guards taking pictures of people, for recordkeeping, saying they're working "for the city" as well as the University of Oregon. It shows an officer asking Mubarak for his name and then invoking the university's property rights by ordering everyone off the lot and onto the sidewalks. Mubarak was headed to the sidewalk, but slowly, and asking the officer to ask him nicely. And that's when she had enough—and he was put into handcuffs and taken to a police car. Someone at the end says "Call Amanda Fritz."




Yes, this confrontation occurred in the lot near the MAX tracks. But I also ride down along the waterfront every morning and night. And groups of homeless people have been gathering there, beneath the bridge, for weeks with their belongings—blankets, sleeping bags, packs, and sometimes shopping carts, only to thin out in recent days amid a noticeably stepped-up police presence.

The arrest comes more than a week after Right 2 Dream Too, the homeless rest area at NW 4th and Burnside, won the right to spend $846,000 on a new location as part of a complicated land deal approved by city council. The group had agreed to drop a lawsuit over the city challenging code fines and move to the Pearl, but developers in the Pearl fought that agreement. It's their money that will finance Right 2 Dream Too's move somewhere else. Willamette Week was first to publish a preliminary list of more than 20 potential locations turned up by a city-paid real estate broker.

Mubarak was released from jail overnight and is due in court at 2 pm.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Saltzman Gets Away, Fish Gets Punchy, and Right 2 Dream Too Gets $846,000

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Notice the large gap between Dan Saltzman and Amanda Fritz and the rest of the council, at the Google presser just after the Right 2 Dream Too vote Saltzman missed.
  • denis c. theriault
  • Notice the large gap between Dan Saltzman and Amanda Fritz and the rest of the council, at the Google presser just after the Right 2 Dream Too vote Saltzman missed.
Rather than voting against a million-dollar land deal that would see Right 2 Dream Too paid $846,000 by developers to drop a plan to relocate to a Pearl, Commissioner Dan Saltzman ducked out of council chambers this morning for what he joked was a "non-fat latte."

No, he wasn't actually getting caffeinated. But as a "courtesy" to Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Charlie Hales, Saltzman refrained from once again restating his "well-known opposition" to the deal. (Saltzman spoke up with several questions during what was supposed to be a victory party, pushing the vote off another week.) And with Saltzman gone, the deal was approved unanimously, with some reservations, and will take effect immediately.

Fritz, who took up the Old Town homeless rest area's cause upon becoming development services commissioner last year, spoke first in savoring a hard-fought win. She simply thanked Right 2 Dream Too, the more than two-year-old rest area for the homeless on NW 4th and Burnside, for doing its work.

"You are providing a safe shelter at a safe site," she said.

But it was Commissioner Nick Fish who maybe spoke loudest—spending a few minutes laying into Saltzman's opposition (if not quite by name) before expressing his support for a deal he also seemed to damn, at times, with faint praise.

Fish said it was childish to punish Right 2 Dream Too out of distaste for its current landlord, Michael Wright, a convicted felon (who reputedly took a murder rap for his stepfather) who tilted with the city about the future of his land after code violations forced him to demolish his adult bookstore. Wright stands to make some money by selling his land to the Portland Development Commission.

"I think as adults we can make that distinction," Fish said.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Saltzman, With Questions, Forces Delay in Right 2 Dream Too Vote

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 12:14 PM

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Commissioner Amanda Fritz tried to be gracious this morning when announcing one last wrinkle in a million-dollar land deal meant to keep homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too from the Pearl District by giving the group $846,000 to buy or lease a lot somewhere else near downtown instead.

The money in that deal, announced last Thursday, would come from a development company led by political big wheels Homer Williams and Dike Dame.

But instead of asking the city council to bless the deal during a hearing today—an emergency move that would require unanimous support—Fritz calmly said some people might want more time to talk about it all. And, because of that consideration, a vote wouldn't come until a second hearing next week.

It wasn't until later in the hearing, after people read some dark omens into the delay, that Fritz 'fessed up. It wasn't her concern, per se. One of her colleagues asked her to pull back on the timeline at 9 this morning, she said.

And that's when Commissioner Dan Saltzman piped up with his own admission. He'd made the request. And he wasn't willing to reconsider, at least not until he had several questions answered over the coming days.

"I need another week," said Saltzman, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau. "What I'm wrestling with, with all due respect, is that $846,000 is a lot of money. I need more framework and definition on how that money would be spent. I have questions about who would own that property. Would the city own it? Or Right 2 Dream too?... It's a lot of money in every respect except one: trying to purchase or lease property that's the most highly sought after property in the downtown core."

Then, in a comment that drew a storm of outrage from the crowd, he said he worried the gift from the developers would put pressure on the council to dip into its own resources: "I don't want a dynamic where affordable housing money is going over to Right 2 Dream Too."

Fritz, who inherited Right 2 Dream Too (and its lawsuit over code fines) from Saltzman when taking over the Bureau of Development Services last year, reacted icily. She said the ordinance appoints Mayor Charlie Hales and herself as custodians of that money, alongside Right 2 Dream Too.

"And when you said with 'all due respect,'" she said, "it doesn't sound like you trust us to do that."

(UPDATE 4:30 PM: The Portland Development Commission has approved its piece of the transaction—the actual sale of the city-owned Pearl District parking lot originally promised to Right 2 Dream Too. Hit the jump for more details.)

Continue reading »

Friday, February 7, 2014

What Hales, Fritz Are Promising Right 2 Dream Too

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 2:44 PM

The words could all change, based on a vote this weekend by Right 2 Dream Too's board.

But for now, the draft ordinance (pdf) underpinning yesterday's announcement of a potential $1.038 million breakthrough in the rest area's hunt for a new home has been posted to next week's city council agenda—complete with details about precisely what kind of help the city's willing to offer.

As expected, it's being put forward by both Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Charlie Hales. Both helped broker a proposed land sale, announced yesterday, in which wealthy and well-connected Pearl District developers would pay R2DToo $846,000 to move somewhere, anywhere besides a city-owned lot beneath the Broadway Bridge that Fritz and Hales had promised last year.

Essential to the language as currently drafted is a promise to keep R2DToo at its current home at NW4th and Burnside even if the Portland Development Commission buys the land from its current owners. The rest area would stay until the city finds it a new home. It also makes a nod that any new site work with the rest area's current model: a primarily outdoor, low-impact, and cheap-to-operate communitarian emergency shelter.

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The actual land sale in question—the Pearl group will buy the city lot that had been promised to R2DToo—will head before the Portland Development Commission's board on Wednesday afternoon. The PDC's board meets only once a month, a quiet reason for what's felt like something of a hurry-up public announcement.

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Street Roots: Portland Leaders Shouldn't Be "Making Homeless People Public Enemy No. 1"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Here's a must-read on a cold snowy morning.

Street Roots executive director Israel Bayer just managed to put a whole year's worth of news on homelessness in perspective, posting a column today that draws from the hardship of winter weather, the next presumed steps for Right 2 Dream Too, the business lobby's failure to revive sit-lie laws, and Police Chief Mike Reese's unfortunately named "Prosper Portland."

It's titled, aptly, "A snowstorm, a tent city and Portland Police Chief Mike Reese." And it's full of good stuff (along with a strong reminder to thank the people working this week to keep people warm and safe).

First, it’s my assumption that the Portland Business Alliance and some folks downtown are mad as hell....

Their whole message, packaged in various ways, has amounted to the notion that downtown Portland’s livability is at risk unless we act now. Right now. We’ve heard it time and again, year after year. The British are coming. Damn the torpedoes. Rush the gates. The Road Warriors and homeless people are coming to town and will have a stranglehold on our city.

One of the constant messages to leverage a more robust sidewalk and other quality of life laws has been a skateboard attack at the Outdoor Store downtown this summer. A elderly employee was injured badly by a young man who was presumed to be homeless. It’s a very tragic story, and at this point, I would like to find the kid and throw him in jail for all the trouble he’s caused. But let’s be real, it was one incident.

That’s not to say something bad won’t happen again. It will. We live in a city with more than half a million people. Of course, we should constantly be working to deter violence downtown. What we shouldn’t be doing is making homeless people public enemy number one.

Now, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Downtown Portland is thriving. Tourism is at an all-time high, thriving neighborhoods have risen in the Pearl and South Waterfront, and crime is down — way down. We are a city on a hill.

When Chief Reese dropped his proposal about Portland Prosper, my first thought was, that man is going to run for mayor. My second thought was, did Mayor Charlie Hales, his direct supervisor, know about this? My third thought was, does he actually have enough gas in the tank to pull it off?

Read the whole thing here!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Right 2 Dream Too Breakthrough? $1 Million Transaction Will Give Pearl Group Lot 7, Pay for Relocation

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 3:29 PM

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With almost disquieting speed, city officials now say they're preparing to vote next week on the latest stab at a breakthrough in a months-old impasse over what to do with Old Town homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too.

The Pearl District developers working to block a move to a city-owned lot beneath the Broadway Bridge's Lovejoy off-ramp have agreed to buy that lot for $142,000—and then kick in nearly $900,000 more to fund R2DToo's move to some other undetermined lot and buy out a parking lease from a nearby apartment building for low-income seniors.

Despite only tentative support from R2DToo—whose board will meet to formally decide on the idea this weekend— both Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Charlie Hales are planning to file paperwork tonight putting the proposal on the city council and Portland Development Commission's respective agendas next Wednesday.

The PDC would formally approve the sale to the Pearl group, whose interest in the lot, spurred by the plan to move R2DToo onto it last fall, was first reported by the Mercury. The council, before that afternoon hearing, would approve an ordinance accepting the additional money and directing how it would be used. Depending on how R2DToo's board votes, some of the legal language in the proposal could change before the vote.

Nothing in the deal limits where Right 2 Dream Too can move using that money, which will be managed by the city. A real estate broker, working on a $1,000 contract, could bring back a list of potential sites within a 1.5-mile radius of the Portland Building as soon as tomorrow.

"It's been quick for me and them," Fritz said before a press release (pdf) announcing the deal was released today. "I found out about this on Friday."

But she was emphatic that the arrangement involved "no taxpayer money," something just as strongly expressed by Hales' office and Ibrahim Mubarak, a Right 2 Dream Too co-founder. Mubarak says he wrestled with the offer before embracing it and that many of the group's board members might not be ready to follow.

"I'm not going to say no to it, when we can do something to help people," Mubarak says. "It's good they are doing this. And I hope they are doing this to bring out their humanitarian spirit, and not just doing it like capitalists do, to just get rid of things and pay people off."

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Prosper Portland": A Good Preview of Coming Homeless Crackdowns

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 11:14 AM

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Portland in 2013 saw just 15 murders, and violent crime levels were down to late-60s levels.

But Police Chief Mike Reese and other top police brass this morning argued downtown Portland and the central eastside feel as unsafe as ever.

"I heard more complaints last year from everyday citizens feeling they were intimidated, they were afraid, they felt they were going to be the victim of crime," Assistant Chief Larry O'Dea told officials gathered for the monthly meeting of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council Executive Committee. "Everyone's worried: Are they going to be the next person hit with a skateboard?"

O'Dea was referring to an incident last summer where one of the city's "street kids" struck an elderly employee of the Portland Outdoor Store in the head with a skateboard. That attack was an outlier, but has made an easy rallying cry for city, county and business leaders hoping to curb aggressive panhandling and overt homelessness in the city center. And it's no accident it arose this morning.

In a lengthy presentation, Reese unveiled "Prosper Portland," a new name for strategies the city and others have pursued for months and years, and a preview of what Portland's homelessness enforcement efforts will probably look like in coming months.

"A lot of the components we've been working on for sometimes years," the chief said. But it hasn't worked, according to Reese. "Last year we reached a tipping point... and it didn't feel safe."

(Last year, remember, was replete with controversial police crackdowns on downtown and eastside homeless encampments—including an effort to shoo away a years-old camping protest outside city hall.)

Reese's central message with Prosper Portland is that agencies—police, prosecutors, the Portland Business Alliance, the Portland Development Commission, city bureaus, county social services providers—need to coordinate better to address the issue. But he also floated a number of changes he said need to occur—soon— for Portland to have any success.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Utah Might End Homelessness by 2015

Posted by Danielle Henderson on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 1:44 PM

Well this is a unique approach to homelessness—giving people homes:

In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

According to this article they've reduced homelessness by 78% in 8 years.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

BREAKING: Hoyt Warehouse Offer No Longer Part of Right 2 Dream Too Talks

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 5:12 PM

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  • illustration by levi hastings
Mayor Charlie Hales' office says it's pulling back on a proposal to move Old Town homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too into a rented warehouse just blocks away on NW Hoyt—in part because of the high cost of rehabbing the building and some unanticipated zoning challenges that could have kept the group out for several more months.

And even that presumed Right 2 Dream Too was willing to move into the building—something that's been up in the air ever since Hales' office went public with the Hoyt site (first reported by the Mercury) late last year. Right 2 Dream Too has resisted moving indoors, seeing tents as part of its low-cost mission of helping the homeless, and wanted a longer commitment for a least at Hoyt.

Josh Alpert, the Hales policy adviser whose time has been devoted to the relocation, says those talks were waiting until more information came back about the Hoyt site. Between the unspecified zoning challenges and a "ballpark" cost estimate of $335,000 for repairs, he said "those two things combined led the mayor and Commissioner [Amanda] Fritz to say that's not the best option." The city already was prepared to pay $10,000 a month in rent for 15 months.

"We're continuing to look," for another location, Alpert says. "Right 2 Dream is looking, too."

For now, Alpert says, the site will remain at 4th and Burnside, where it's been since October 2011. Hales' office stepped into the relocation issue last fall after Pearl District developers and neighbors flooded city hall with complaints over a plan previously worked out with Fritz. Fritz and the Portland Development Commission promised a lot beneath the Lovejoy ramp of the Broadway Bridge as part of a settlement that cleared more than $20,000 in code fines for Right 2 Dream Too.

UPDATE 5:50 PM: The announcement comes after tensions between Hales' office and Right 2 Dream Too flared publicly during citizen comment at yesterday's Portland City Council hearing. Those tensions, about feeling like they've been kept in the dark, have been fed by the sometimes frustrating back-and-forth among the parties but also by reports shared by activists close to Right 2 Dream Too that police have been continually clearing out spots where homeless Portlanders have camped and collecting their property.

Messages left with Fritz, with Mark Kramer, the attorney representing Right 2 Dream Too, and with Ibrahim Mubarak, a co-founder of the site, have yet to be returned. Alpert acknowledged that communication has been an issue in the relocation talks but that Hales and his staff are heeding concerns like those expressed yesterday.

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hales' Office: Meeting with Kotek Helped Decision to Put Off Sit-Lie Revival in Salem

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 5:22 PM

Mayor Charlie Hales told local public safety officials way back in September—an announcement first reported by the Mercury—that he was considering next month's abbreviated legislative session for the revival of a sit-lie push that faltered last spring despite heavy pressure from the Portland Business Alliance.

But now, it seems, that's no longer the plan. Hales' office has decided the politics of pushing a controversial bill in the condensed legislative session will make for too risky of a gamble.

"Even-numbered years are too damned hard," says Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, confirming a report that came out a little while ago in practically simultaneous tweets and posts by the Oregonian and Willamette Week.

The last straw, Haynes says, was a meeting today with House Speaker Tina Kotek. Kotek warned Hales that a bill wasn't already a "slam dunk" (as Haynes put it) heading into the session starting February 3 wouldn't be worth the effort.

"That did it," Haynes said—noting earlier in our conversation that the mayor's office had been "heading this way" already after its own internal conversations with top city lobbyist Martha Pellegrino. Haynes says Pellegrino told the office she couldn't "guarantee [us] this bill in 2014," citing the condensed schedule.

"You have so few bills and so few weeks," Haynes says.

Internal talks also touched on the notion that the city hasn't "necessarily used every single tool in [its] toolkit" for dealing with sidewalk management and aggressive panhandling.

"If we go to the Legislature and say that the to Senate Judiciary Committee," Haynes says, "their answer will be 'do that first.'"

And if the effort faltered in 2014, so soon after faltering in 2013, Haynes said Pellegrino warned, that losing streak would become its own hurdle—adding to outcry from advocates who worry that sit-lie bills are inhumane and allow for discrimination against the homeless.

"In Salem," Haynes says, "bills get a taint if they lose too many times in a row."

In fact, at today's meeting of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, the same body where Hales made his announcement in September, State Representative Jennifer Williamson hinted at what turned out to be Kotek's advice to Hales. Williamson, who was on the House Judiciary Committee when it approved last year's sit-lie push, warned leadership in Salem was trying to punt any and all legislation deemed controversial into next year's regular session.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Portland Business Alliance Dismisses Right 2 Dream Too as "Illegal Camp," Not an "Appropriate Answer" to Homelessness

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Jan 3, 2014 at 1:29 PM

The Portland Business Alliance has hardly kept its disdain for Right 2 Dream Too—Old Town's tent-based rest area for the homeless—much of a secret.

In December 2012, it asked Commissioner Dan Saltzman to evict the group, citing a crime spike that actual crime numbers proved wrong. More recently, last September, it sent Commissioner Amanda Fritz a letter urging against her plan to move the site to a city lot beneath a Broadway Bridge off-ramp on the border of the Pearl District.

And on December 16, just before the holidays, the PBA weighed in once again (pdf). This time, according to letters and emails obtained by the Mercury, President Sandra McDonough wrote the city council to stick up for Old Town/Chinatown—and reaffirm Mayor Charlie Hales' promise (reported by the Oregonian) that any permanent home for R2DToo would be somewhere else. Hales has proposed moving the site into an empty warehouse at 320 NW Hoyt for no more than 15 months.

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But that letter wasn't the end of McDonough's conversation with city hall. Fritz wrote her back a few days later—saying she wanted to see more than one site like R2DToo in Portland and also suggesting the business community "step up" with more funding for social services. And that's when McDonough got down to brass tacks and revealed just how little the PBA (publicly) understands the mechanics of R2DToo.

Whereas Fritz had described the site as "a safe place for people experiencing houselessness... to sleep in safety without being roused by police or private security," McDonough still clung to the notion that the well-run, volunteer-led organization was nothing more than an "illegal camp." (Hit the jump to see the full emails exchanged by Fritz and McDonough.)

"Saying the answer is having the business community 'step up' with funds to build shelters fails to recognize the city’s obligation," McDonough wrote back, later adding, "We do not think an illegal camp is now, or ever has been, an appropriate answer."

McDonough will have to work hard to convince the city council otherwise. Fritz has been a stalwart champion for Right 2 Dream Too. And Hales, though he helped complicate the plan to move the site into the Pearl, has also taken pains to say how much he appreciates R2DToo's work and model.

And as for progress leading toward a move? Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, says the owners of the Hoyt property were willing to let things glide through the holidays and that nothing's really changed, except for some more meetings.

There's also still no firm deadline, Haynes says. However, he pointed out correctly, "we're through the holidays."

Continue reading »

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Rock Show in La Carreta? Yes!

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 10:44 AM

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  • Art by Tuesday Faust
La Carreta is the funky, homey Mexican joint at the corner of SE McLoughlin and Holgate. You've no doubt driven by it a number of times—and even more likely, you've stopped in more than once for their ample Mexican fare and dizzying margaritas. It's a Portland old-school favorite, unsullied by the hands of hipsterdom.

Did you know that La Carreta has a private upstairs banquet hall? It does! And on Friday, January 3, it's gonna hold a one-of-a-kind rock 'n' roll show. The Mercury is co-hosting a very special, very awesome benefit for Sisters of the Road, featuring music by the Pynnacles, Eyelids, and a micro-set by Hutch Harris of the Thermals. If you don't know, the Pynnacles are the band of veterans that hearken back to the rough-and-tumble days of garage rock in the mid-'60s, doing so with authenticity and boundless energy; they're fronted, of course, by the legendary Sean Croghan. And Eyelids' ranks include John Moen (the Decemberists, Black Prairie), Chris Slusarenko (Guided by Voices), and Jonathan Drews (Sunset Valley); their debut single comes out in February. Lastly, Hutch Harris is... well, Hutch needs no introduction.

Tickets for the 2014 La Carreta Meltdown just went on sale this morning, and since the banquet hall is pretty teensy (only 80 advance tickets are available), you'll want to jump on it right now. Go here for tickets, and don't dilly-dally.

So yeah—a rock show in La Carreta, for an absolutely terrific cause. It's the best way to kick off the New Year.

The 2014 La Carreta Meltdown w/the Pynnacles, Eyelids, and Hutch Harris; La Carreta, 4534 SE McLoughlin, Fri Jan 3, $15 advance, tickets here

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cold Weather on the Streets: Where to Go, What People Need

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 3:35 PM

They were standing with a group of young people outside Union Gospel Mission. He was wearing snowpants and boots, two jackets and a hat. She was without a hat, in a jacket and gloves, and shivering as she asked me for a smoke. Which I didn't have.

Almost as soon as we started talking, a man walked by the group, the rest of them huddling on a blanket in front of a packed Fred Meyer cart, and handed over a package so precious it was immediately torn open to shouts of thank you: thick warm socks. A whole dozen of them.

"It's cold enough to get me to want to break into that place there," the man I spoke with said while pointing to the Sinnott House under forever construction across SW Couch. "We need somewhere we can go and stay there and stay warm."

The woman looked at me and said "This is like New York."

He chimed in again, "We're cuddling together in big groups."

They all looked miserable. And then they started getting their stuff together so they could head in for Union Gospel Mission's regular afternoon snack time at 2 pm.

It's been like this in a lot of places downtown and all throughout Portland over the weekend, thanks to a record cold snap unlike anything we've seen in the past decade. And for all the pain in the streets, there's been a flurry of activity among provider and government agencies in hopes of dulling it. (HIT THE JUMP FOR A LIST OF SHELTER SPACE AVAILABLE TONIGHT.)

"You're never sure that its enough," says Marc Jolin of JOIN, one of the housing and services providers helping coordinate the region's response. "You're never sure you're getting to everybody."

The Portland Housing Bureau, Commissioner Dan Saltzman's office, Multnomah County, and a panoply of providers have now spent days in "severe weather" mode, holding daily conference calls and relying on 211 to transmit information about emergency shelters and warming centers. (For those who don't know, 211 is the number you call in Oregon—24 hours a day—for information about and referrals to social services providers.)

Providers, from Right 2 Dream Too to Transition Projects to JOIN to Portland Rescue Mission have been putting out desperate calls for gear: blankets, sleeping bags, shoes, socks, everything. They were short in supplies after a cold snap around Thanksgiving. But after putting out the word for help, things have been better. And yet, they still need more.

Even the police bureau has taken a more formal role in helping out. All weekend, after midnight, 211 has been working with police dispatchers to get officers out picking up people who call in and want shelter and can't otherwise get there on their own. Until this cold snap, 211 would call social services providers at home to see if they could help someone calling after midnight. All told, the bureau says it's helped 20 people (27 others refused transport).

Continue reading »

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hales and Staff Take Reporters on Field Trip to Proposed Home for Right 2 Dream Too

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 5:15 PM

Mayor Charlie Hales shows off his proposed new site for Right 2 Dream Too: an Old Town warehouse at 320 NW Hoyt.
  • Denis C. Theriault
  • Mayor Charlie Hales shows off his proposed new site for Right 2 Dream Too: an Old Town warehouse at 320 NW Hoyt.
Staffers for Mayor Charlie Hales, eventually joined by the mayor himself, shed more light this afternoon on a potential breakthrough development in the Right 2 Dream Too saga first reported on Blogtown earlier today: a rapidly moving plan that would move the homeless rest area into an empty warehouse at 320 NW Hoyt as soon as the end of this month.

Their announcement came roughly at the end of a 60-day window that Hales promised prominent Pearl developers who were fighting the city's initial plan for Right 2 Dream Too—moving them beneath a Broadway Bridge off-ramp—and asking for time to craft an alternative.

"We've got a lease in hand, ready to sign," Hales told reporters outside the site during a chilly set of interviews outside the 1925 warehouse building. "We did it within the 60 days."

But Hales and his staff also made clear that time was running short to get that deal together. Further—pointedly acknowledging that Right 2 Dream Too had not yet agreed to make the move—they also said they meant to drive home that urgency by going public at a meeting where neither R2DToo nor their lead sponsor in city hall, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, were invited to attend.

An agreement with the property's owner, Alco Investments of Seattle, would need to be signed by December 16, policy director Josh Alpert says. The reason? Other parties have expressed interest in the warehouse property, which has been on the market off an on in recent years.

"We are urging them to take this deal," said Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, when asked by Aaron Mesh of Willamette Week whether Hales' office was resorting to "brinksmanship." Hales later repeated the sentiment.

And if they don't? Right 2 Dream Too would have to stay at its current lot, at NW 4th and Burnside. Neither staffer indicated Hales would allow a move to the Station Place parking lot in the Pearl that Fritz had chosen, in concert with Hales. "They'll stay where they are," Haynes says.

Alpert also confirmed, as I'd reported this afternoon, that two of the developers opposing the Pearl move, Dike Dame and Homer Williams, have expressed an interest in buying the Station Place parking lot, often referred to as Lot 7. But Alpert walked back any notion that proceeds could be used to help with the Hoyt move. Alpert also says he doesn't remember if he first learned of their interest after Fritz and Hales put the lot in play and that there was "no particular plan" to sell it.

Among the biggest sticking points, they said, was the length of the lease. Fritz told me earlier today she had "significant concerns" about a lease that would last just 12 months. Alpert and Haynes said that's where they'd left things in a negotiating session with R2DToo last night. But they said they'd since been told they could have up to 15 months and that Fritz had been informed, if not the rest of R2DToo's board.

"The people who own the land want to sell it," Alpert says. "They know Old Town is developing."

It was unclear if the extension would sweeten the deal for R2DToo's board members, who clearly feel frustrated after getting this close to a deal on a site they overwhelmingly are excited about. I've called Ibrahim Mubarak, R2DToo's spokesman and lead figure, for comment. He's apparently meeting with Fritz. Fritz expressed frustration that she hadn't heard of the meeting.

Continue reading »

Updated: Right 2 Dream Too Talks Now Focused on Old Town Property; Pearl Group Wants to Buy Lot 7

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 12:49 PM

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  • portlandmaps.com
The weeks-long search for a new home for homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too that's not in the Pearl District is now focused on an empty warehouse building in Old Town, several sources close to the negotiations have confirmed to the Mercury.

The property in question sits at 320 NW Hoyt. It was on the short list of sites the Mercury previously reported had been turned over to Right 2 Dream Too and city officials by the Pearl consortium led by developers Dike Dame and Homer Williams. It's currently owned by a firm based in Seattle. Besides the warehouse space, the site also has a loading dock. The 1925 site would doubtlessly require improvements like sprinklers and bathrooms.

That a building has surfaced as a realistic alternative to the site Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Mayor Charlie Hales initially proposed for R2DToo—a city-owned parking lot beneath the Broadway Bridge's Lovejoy ramp—could be a sign of a major breakthrough. That parking lot, dubbed Lot 7 and part of the Station Place development, is the subject of a challenge by Dame and Williams, who argue the city would be breaking its own code and abrogating development agreements if it moved R2DToo onto the land.

It's unclear, however, if a final deal is in place and what kind of terms—who will pay for fixes, duration of a lease, etc.—are in play.

"Negotiations took place yesterday," said a source close to the talks, asking for anonymity given the sensitivity of discussions that involve not only R2DToo and Dame and Williams, but also Amanda Fritz and staffers for Hales. "There were still critical conditions that had not been agreed to."

Ibrahim Mubarak, spokesman for R2DToo, did not immediately return a request for comment. Commissioner Amanda Fritz declined to comment during a brief break in this morning's city council meeting. I'll update if I have any more details.

Update 2 PM: Fritz has gone on the record, saying she wasn't aware that a meeting had been planned with mayor's office at the Hoyt site and that she still has "significant concerns" about the terms of what's been discussed. Namely, that a deal for the Hoyt site would be just for one year, including time spent getting it fixed up, work done on the city's dime.

"I was not aware of the meeting," she told me. "I was not aware Right 2 Dream Too had agreed to this site. I have significant concerns about spending investing city money in a building that will only be used for one year."

Separately, sources have confirmed another tricky piece of the negotiations. Williams and Dame have asked to purchase Lot 7 from the city, potentially to give the city money to work on Hoyt. Of course, that also takes away leverage for a deal, since R2DToo has held onto the Pearl site as a fallback—figuring the Pearl group, despite its challenge, would still rather work on a new site than fight out a code battle over the Pearl site.

Interestingly, the lot does not appear in a list of properties for sale by the Portland Development Commission obtained by the Mercury. So any talks would be happening before the public gets a crack at the lot. I've already asked the PDC for its policy on land sales and for its own list of property for sale.

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