“Sleep Out” a protest against the city of Portland for returning the homeless back into dreaded shelters where they cannot keep personal belongings after being forced out of the Wellness Center on the USM campus several weeks ago, drew masked advocates of the agenda late this afternoon to the plaza in front of City Hall. The fifty homeless residents of the Wellness Center knew from the start that their stay there was not a permanent situation.
On July 10, 160 people signed a letter to Portland City Councilors expressing concern for the situation caused by the pandemic and the changes that Preble Resource Center was forced to undergo because of health risks. The letter asked for investment in affordable and free housing, in public health services, and in public transportation as well as a reduction in funding for the police and prisons. No one from the city has responded to that letter according to several who signed it.
City Councilor Belinda Ray and Mayor Kate Snyder were reportedly going to appear at the event. However, as of 6:30 pm., when mhn.com left city hall plaza, neither had appeared there.
Moments before the Sleep Out started at 4:00 pm., the city issued a press release that listed its support for the homeless community including: that it is currently operating 3 emergency shelters following CDC guidelines, it offers day services where clients have access to 3 meals a day, it provides isolation spaces for anyone awaiting CDC test results, it is working to transition shelter clients from the USM’s Wellness Center to its shelter beds at the Oxford Street Shelter and the Expo and, lastly, the city supports approximately 175-200 people weekly in motels.
The city’s press release continued that over the past couple of weeks, there have been numerous issues at Deering Oaks Park. The rise in activity at the Park coincides with the COVID-19 related closures of on-site operations at the Preble Street Resource Center, the Portland Public library and other local assets previously available to people during the daytime. The city anticipates that additional outreach to those at the Park will occur.
On Friday, July 17, the city’s Parks Director noticed Preble Street that a permit is necessary for their use of public property. (Apparently referring to issues at the Park)? City staff has begun working with Preble Street to outline a license agreement for their proposed food delivery program that was shutdown to the Park that same day according to sources at the event today at city hall plaza. The city says otherwise.
Meanwhile, the city, under Mayor Snyder’s leadership, has failed to respond in any meaningful way to the Black Lives Movement protests that engulfed the city recently.