Petitioning Multnomah County Oregon Deborah Kafoury

Wapato for Portland's Homeless

In 2005, Multnomah County voters approved a $58.1 million dollar general obligation bond to fund the construction of the 525 bed, 18.1 acres, 166,00-sf, minimum correctional Wapato facility.

The total cost to Multnomah county voters stands today at a staggering $90.1 million (including $550,000 a year to maintain).

Then the Editorial Board of Portland’s two largest newspapers, the Oregonian, and the Portland Tribune came out in favor of the use of the Wapato facility for Portland’s homeless.

From the Oregonian - Wapato's lost promise

Few people in public life care as much about the homeless as Deborah Kafoury, chair of the Multnomah County Commission. That's why it's disappointing to learn her county's report on the potential use of Wapato jail for homeless people is so persistently negative, prompting Kafoury to declare the jail unsuited for such a use.

Has anyone noticed? It's cold outside. Absent other promising short-term solutions by the county, the county's job is to find a way to get to yes on Wapato – not no. The city of Portland recently and correctly declared the homeless situation to be a public emergency in need of imaginative actions – hence its sudden use of the armory to temporarily house homeless people otherwise found in city parks, on downtown sidewalks and beneath roadway underpasses.

From the Portland Tribune - Public deserves chance to talk about Wapato

Wapato was built in far North Portland more than a decade ago with no plan for funding its operation. The 525-bed jail stands as a reminder of precious tax dollars wasted, which is just one of the reasons why county officials should take the time to listen to their constituents and give serious consideration to opening Wapato to the homeless.

Hales is far from alone in that notion. After the Tribune’s Dec. 29 article, the number of names on a pro-Wapato petition reached into the thousands. A week earlier, the Portland Business Alliance joined the call for opening Wapato.

As for the issue of warehousing the homeless: On the inhumanity scale, most people would say a comfortable bunk with indoor plumbing nearby is a far more compassionate solution than a sleeping bag and a tent under an interstate bridge on a subfreezing night.

No one will die of exposure at Wapato. That, in itself, is reason enough to discuss how it could play a role in solving Portland’s homeless crisis.

Where things stand today

  • Six months after mayor Hales unilaterally legalized homeless tenting/camping throughout Portland, just last week Hales officially ended what he called his six-month (safe-sleep) experiment.
  • 10,000 souls move to Portland every month.
  • The average cost of a home in Portland stands at $400,000, the highest in the U.S.
  • Portland has only one homeless shelter bed for every three needed.
  • Portland’s declared housing state of emergency and the mandate afforded therein have been grossly underutilized.
  • Portland has not completed an official point-in-time count since January of 2015* at which time it was reported that the number of unsheltered homeless was 1,887.
  • Homeless advocates estimate the total number of those who meet HUD's official definition of unsheltered homeless in Portland now stands at 12,500.
  • This represents a 500% increase since the last point-in-time count in January 2015 (18 months ago).
  • Oregon is one of only two states that carry out a homeless poll every TWO years.
  • The Housing and Urban Development agency highly recommends that due to Portland's state of emergency, an official point-in-time count is organized and implemented immediately. 
  • Owned and operated by Portland's Multnomah county, access to the Wapato facilities 18.1 acres, 525 bed, the facility continues to be denied.
  • The 500+ homeless who are tenting/camping along a 2.3 mile stretch of the Springwater Corridor have been notified that they must leave the area before the September 1, 2016, deadline.
  • There are no plans in place for the disposition or relocation of the homeless scheduled to be forcibly removed on September 1, 2016.
  • The relationship between neighborhood associations across Portland, the homeless, elected officials, and advocates and activists alike remain strained and worsening.
  • Involvement in the decision-making process, an open dialogue, and transparency are critically needed and greatly absent.
  • 2-3 homeless souls are lost every week.
  • Since the Wapato facility was constructed in 2006, 525 homeless souls have perished on the streets of Portland.

This is the same number of dormitory-style bunk beds available at the Wapato facility.

The lack of affordable housing, no-cause evictions, double and triple digit overnight rent increases, the influx of 10,000 new residents every month, and the inept, and inadequate homeless policy by Portland;'s elected officials has created the perfect storm leading to a historic humanitarian crisis.

If you agree that the resources at the 18.1 acre Wapato facility should be utilized, I hope you will sign this petition and share within your social media network. 

For additional, please contact me at jeffswoodward@icloud.com

Jeff S. Woodward

This petition will be delivered to:
  • Multnomah County Oregon
    Deborah Kafoury


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