Boulder city council members and other civic leaders recently traveled to Portland and Eugene Oregon to learn how those two cities are dealing with issues facing Boulder – homelessness, public transit and affordable housing.
In addition to city council and members of the Boulder Chamber and business community, members of Boulder Rights Watch also traveled to Oregon to learn how Portland and Eugene are working with the homeless community.
Boulder Rights Watch was formed in 2014 as more and more laws were being passed to criminalize homelessness. It brought together activists, advocates as well as residents of the city and legal representatives.
Mike Homner, who is formerly homeless, is a member of Boulder Rights Watch who traveled to Oregon. He says Eugene and Portland have more compassion than Boulder for the homeless.
Homner cites the Mayor of Portland as an example of this. He has imposed a moratorium on the city’s camping ban. Homner quotes Portland’s mayor as saying “the camping ban is still in place but we’ve put a moratorium on it because when you do this, when an officer comes in and says ‘why are you camping here, it’s illegal and unless you move on to a service or a place that’s legal to go to, I’m going to have to write you a ticket’…when I look at that sentence and it says move on to where? we need to be the ones to finish that sentence and until we can we allow camping on the sidewalks.” Portland now allows six tents to be encamped in one spot, e.g. on a sidewalk, as long as they do not impede traffic and pedestrians.
Portland has declared a state of emergency there concerning affordable homes and the city has taken a third of their budget – $340 million – to put it towards affordable homes not only for the homeless, but for middle class and working poor. Homner says a similar state of emergency should be declared here in Boulder.
Homner was impressed by Portland’s Dignity Village – a community of tiny homes that is self-governed, and Opportunity Village (pictured above) and Rest Stops in Eugene, which are also self-governed. Homner says these provide an immediate opportunity to get people off the streets and out of a crisis situation. “This is an interim step and I can tell you from being out on the streets, when there are elements, you want to get out, if not you get wet to the bone, hypothermia sets in. Unfortunately we have 20 (homeless) deaths a year on average.”
Boulder Rights Watch will host a public meeting to share their perspectives on the recent trip to Portland and Eugene on Saturday May 14th from 10am to 1pm at the First Congregational Church (Broadway and Pine Street in Boulder.)