Mental Health Association of Portland

Oregon's independent and impartial mental health advocate

Portland shelters provide warmth to homeless

Posted by Jenny on 12th December 2013

The Portland Mercury, Dec. 9, 2013

See the end of this post for a list of available shelters.

People wait in line outside the Union Gospel Mission.

People wait in line outside the Union Gospel Mission.

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.

“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).

“This is about life and death,” says Central Precinct Commander Bob Day, who told me that some of his officers and sergeants had already been doing this informally last week before Day spoke with Jolin and proposed starting this up citywide. “We’ve had an amazing response from the officers. I thought this would be a hard sell. But I have been so impressed. There’s been no pushback.”

Day acknowledged that some people didn’t want to go with an officer. That’s not surprising, given law enforcement’s role in enforcing complaints and sweeping camps during better weather. Jolin says he’s talking with officials about some other way to help people after midnight.

Dan Herman, 211′s chief executive, and Troy Hammon, the service’s operations chief, both said this cold snap has been among the worst they can remember and among the busiest for 211. Almost 100 people a day have called in either explicitly seeking shelter or about some other issue that makes clear they also need shelter. Herman says last Friday was the busiest on record for 211′s website,

Hammond says it’s been eight days of crisis mode, with more to come. The second-longest spurt, he says, was four days.

“This has gone on longer than anything else in the last four years for us,” Hammond says.

The story was the same over at Right 2 Dream Too, which has only been open for the past two years at NW 4th and Burnside. Folks working there said it’s been bitterly cold in their tents, but manageable with sleeping bags and blankets. Many of their overnight sleepers have hit up warming shelters, coming back to get even more sleep during the day.

One big complication has been condensation in tents—caused by warm breath hitting the cold tent fabric. That condensation has been freezing at night and then melting all at once during the day. The site’s dishwashing tubs and water also have frozen solid. They’ve been making their normal requests—for shoes, underwear (men’s and women’s), thermals, chapstick, sleeping bags, hand warmers, and blankets—stuff they collect for their own site but also share with folks sleeping under bridges and in doorways.

But now they need paper plates and cups and bowls, too.

“It’s still better than the sidewalk,” one of the volunteers told me.

Here’s 211′s list of what’s open, and when. Even if you’ve got someplace warm to be tonight, maybe a neighbor or someone else doesn’t.

Family Winter Shelter
12505 NE Halsey Street, Portland Oregon (on Halsey near 126th 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: 7:00 PM – 7:00 AM
Serves: Families with children under 18 and women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy

Women’s Winter Shelter
Check availability at Bud Clark Commons, 650 NW Irving,
Walk in Mon-Fri 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Sat/Sun 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
or call 503-280-4700
Dates: Seven nights a week throughout winter season
Hours: 7:00 PM – 7:00 AM
Serves: Single women

Red Cross Severe Weather Emergency Warming Center at Imago Dei Church

1302 Ankeny Street, (near 13th Avenue in Inner SE)
This is a walk-in facility. Pets allowed, some space for carts, accessible location
Dates: Evening of Monday, December 9
Hours: 9:00 PM – 7:00 AM
Serves: Families, single adults, and youths
Transportation: Bus #12, 19 and 20 from Union Gospel Mission

Union Gospel Mission
15 NW 3rd Avenue, 503-228-0319
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Evenings of Monday, December 9 and Tuesday, December 10
Hours: 9:30 PM – 6:00 AM
Serves: Families, single adults, and youths

First Baptist Church
224 W Powell, Gresham
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Monday, December 9
Hours: 1:00 PM – 7:00 AM
Serves: Single adults with limited space for families

Red Sea Community Church
7535 N Chicago Avenue
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Evening of Monday, December 9
Hours: 8:00 PM – 8:00 AM
Serves: Single adults with limited space for families

The following expanded day center service is available during the Severe Weather Notice:

Dignity Village
9401 NE Sunderland Avenue, 503-281-1604
Hot showers available.
Dates: Seven days a week during winter season
Hours: 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Serves: Adults 18 and older

1435 NE 81st Avenue
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Monday, December 9 and Tuesday, December 10
Hours: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Serves: Families, single adults and youths

Red and Black Cafe
400 SE 12th Avenue, 503-231-3899
Provides warming space in cafe, no purchase necessary
Dates: Monday, December 9
Hours: 10:30 AM – 10:00 PM
Serves: All

Rose Haven
627 NW 18th Avenue, 503-248-6364
Dates: Monday, December 9
Hours: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Serves: Women and children

Saint André Bessette Catholic Church (Downtown Chapel)
601 W Burnside Street, 503-228-0746
Provides hot beverages, some snacks and movies
Dates: Unable to confirm
Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Serves: Adults

Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
330 SE 11th Avenue, 503.232.5880
Dates: Monday, December 9 through Tuesday, December 10
Hours: Approximately 7:15 AM – 8:45 PM

Union Gospel Mission
15 NW 3rd Avenue, 503-228-0319
This is a walk-in facility. Meal will be served.
Dates: Monday, December 9 and Tuesday, December 10
Hours: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM and 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Serves: Families, single adults, and youths

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Mayor’s meeting on homelessness includes critics, housing advocates, police chief, staffers – but not the Portland Business Alliance

Posted by Jenny on 14th August 2013

By Denis C. Theriault, The Portland Mercury, August 14, 2013

Mayor Charlie Hales, as of this afternoon, has now had three informal meetings with business interests, law enforcement, and social services providers to get up to speed on homelessness—a difficult subject he announced he’d be taking on during his State of the City speech this spring.

Hales’ office sent me the roster of participants for this afternoon’s meeting, which was listed on a public calendar his office sent reporters earlier this week. If you’ve read my previous posts about these meetings, which the Mercury first reported on, you’ll notice something new: The most recent roster now includes former Housing Commissioner Nick Fish and his staff (former housing policy adviser Sonia Schmanski), members of current Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman‘s staff (chief of staff Brendan Finn among them; still not Saltzman himself), and Sally Erickson, the Portland Housing Bureau’s homelessness team leader.

The list also includes Police Chief Mike Reese and, notably does not include, for the first time, the Portland Business Alliance.

Israel Bayer, Street Roots

Sally Erickson, Housing Bureau

Dennis Lundberg, Janus Youth Services

Commissioner Fish + staff

Commissioner Saltzman’s staff

Marc Jolin, JOIN

Doreen Binder, Transition Projects

Chief Mike Reese

Mayoral staffers


But while the meeting was scheduled last week, I’ve been told the additions of Fish and his staff and possibly others were last-minute. As in, the invitations came today, the morning after the Mercury first reported Fish’s complaints and the same day we ran our story about officials including Fish and Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury questioning the city’s leadership on housing issues.

Bayer told me the meeting was “productive” when I saw him briefly outside city hall and that Hales and his staff seeme”d open to a significant discussion about resources, not just law enforcement sweeps of camps and sidewalks. Yesterday, we reported that Street Roots wants to ask businesses and local governments to match the city in committing millions toward rent assistance.

WW today reported that Hales, as a result of the meeting, is less focused on something Saltzman said he wanted to work on: finding new shelter capacity. Kafoury, in our story this week, said that was an inefficient way of helping families, one of Saltzman’s passions.

Hales’ spokesman had this to say earlier this week when asked why Saltzman and the housing bureau weren’t part of the initial meetings:

“The mayor had focused his first meetings by accepting the help of those outside City Hall, because (he’s often said) it’s too easy to get info from ‘inside the bubble’f and tougher, but vital, to see the issue from outsiders’ perspectives. Also, the City Council can always compel Bureau staff to talk to ’em about any topic. And they do.”

Things change quickly in city hall sometimes. This morning, in light of Fish’s remarks, Hales told me commissioners “are always free to weigh in” with their thoughts and he “I don’t take that personally.” But he also said, “When I hear a cry from the heart, I listen.”

He clearly did. And none too soon. Because the media pile-on just got official tonight. City hall gets annoyed with me and Aaron Mesh. They really pay attention when Steve Duin weighs in. And Duin wrote a column today that echoes all the themes in my story in this week’s paper, with the added bonus of calling Hales a latter-day Rudy Giuliani.

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With mental health funding cut and shelters at capacity, hundreds sleep on Portland streets

Posted by Jenny on 19th July 2013

By Elissa Harrington, KOIN 6 News, July 17, 2013

Outside the Portland Rescue Mission

Outside the Portland Rescue Mission

It’s a problem the city of Portland already spends $10 million on annually.

“Mental health funding has been cut,” said one observer. “Housing prices haven’t gotten any better.”

And so the shelters Portland does have are often full.

On a given night there are more than 2,800 people who are homeless in Multnomah County, according to the latest street count. About 1,900 of those are unsheltered and sleeping on the street. That’s a 10% increase from 2012.

The city’s $10 million is spent on rent assistance, supportive housing and outreach. But there also are services not financially supported by the government, such as the Portland Rescue Mission men’s shelter at 111 W. Burnside St.

PRM Executive Director Eric Bauer said they serve about 600 meals a day, and right now all of the mission’s beds are full.

“We’re at capacity on our shelter,” Bauer said. “And as far as funding, we’re always on a shoe string as far as what we would like to be doing.”

Homeless numbers also are growing among women. Women’s services are in such high demand, over at the Union Gospel Mission on 3rd Avenue “We’re seeing growth in particular with women,” said a UGM spokesperson. “We are turning women away from the program — about two a week.”

The Portland Rescue Mission is renovating an entire floor for women’s services. It should open in the fall and will include beds, showers and a day room.

“I have yet to meet a person who really wanted to be out on the cold and wet hard sidewalk,” Bauer said. “But the options they had, that’s the one they took.”

Even though the Portland Rescue Mission is at capacity, it still offers food and counseling. Both the Portland and Union shelters reported serving more than 500 meals — on average — a day, and said ending homelessness starts one person at a time.

Take Angela, a homeless woman camping outside Portland’s City Hall since April.

“When I lost my house the whole family broke up,” Angela told KOIN 6 News.

She said she calls the sidewalk home because she can’t get help elsewhere. The woman’s shelters in Portland are known for being magnets for thieves. A number of shelters also don’t have facilities such as showers, and won’t let occupants stay during the day.

“I’d rather come here with people I’m comfortable with,” said Angela, from her spot along SW 4th Avenue among the homeless camped there. “[I] know they’re watching my back.”

Meanwhile, city services such as supportive housing, outreach and short-term rent assistance are believed to make a dent.

“It can either help somebody who is about ready to become homeless make that bridge, so that they don’t,” said Tracy Manning, director of Portland’s Housing Bureau, “or it can rapidly get somebody off the street.”

Note from KOIN: KOIN 6 News this week has been looking into some of the issues surrounding Portland’s homeless population. On Monday KOIN set up a camera outside city hall. It didn’t take long for us to catch people passing pipes — and drinking in public. Portland Mayor Charlie Hales spoke out Wednesday about the behavior of City Hall’s homeless campers. Also on Wednesday, homeless encampments in outer Portland were blamed for two TriMet bus driver stabbings.

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Biennial homeless count finds 5% increase on Portland’s streets and in shelters

Posted by admin2 on 14th June 2013

From The Oregonian, June 14, 2013

The number of people who are homeless has increased 5 percent over the past two years, “despite our community’s continued investment in strategies to end homelessness,” according to the 2013 point-in-time homeless count, released Friday (6/14/2013).

The biennial count gives a snapshot of the city’s homeless population. Outreach workers sweep the city on one night in January, this year Jan. 30, to count how many people are sleeping on the street, in shelters and transitional housing. The data inform government and nonprofit homeless services and their funding.

In January there were nearly 16,000 homeless people in Portland, based on the broadest definition of homelessness — on the streets, in shelters, staying with friends or family.

On Jan. 30, workers counted 1,895 people who were sleeping outside or in a vehicle or abandoned building, a 10 percent increase from 2011. Nearly half had been homeless for less than a year; 21 percent had been homeless for as many as five years.

The number of literally homeless people — those with no shelter and in emergency shelters — increased by 5 percent, to 2,869.

More than 25 percent of respondents were in downtown or Old Town-Chinatown. The next most common location was Southeast Portland, with 16 percent of respondents.

Despite the vast number of outreach organizations in the city, officials say the increase stems from lasting effects of the recession and a tight rental market, as well as inadequate resources for treating addiction and mental illness.

Officials also note in the report that on that January night, 4,832 people were receiving some sort of housing support; without it, they likely would have been part of the homeless count too.

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Beyond the Department of Justice Report: Cease Fire Now

Posted by admin2 on 17th September 2012

Guest Column for The Oregonian, September 18, 2012

By Jenny Westberg, representing the Board of the Mental Health Association of Portland

We applaud the Department of Justice’s acknowledgement of the problem we have been talking about for years, but its recommendations to the Portland Police Bureau will only serve to extend that problem. They continue a long tradition of patchwork remedies and promised change. They repeat the City Hall mantra: blame the unfixable mental health system, blame the now-unfixable victim, add a little training, add a little policy, do anything but face the problem and make real change.

There is a way to end police brutality in Portland. Zero tolerance for killing a civilian. Kill a civilian and turn in your badge – regardless of the scenario, regardless of threat or perceived threat, regardless of your fears or prejudices against fellow Portlanders who happen to have a mental illness.

Zero tolerance is the only way to stop dangerous cops; it’s the only remedy to impunity.

Most Portland cops serve with compassion and valor. But all the training in the world won’t help those who will never learn. Zero harm is an unrealizable goal. But separating officers who kill civilians at least assures us nofuture harm will come from them: nothing short of zero tolerance will protect us from another Chris Humphreys or Kyle Nice.

Zero tolerance sets a high standard, but not an unmanageable one. It will not handcuff police, but force new thinking and greater reliance on non-lethal responses.  There will, unfortunately, be cases where an officer is unfairly penalized. But if we have learned anything from the past, it’s this: we cannot make exceptions. Inevitably they expand to accommodate all situations.

Should there be an exemption when killing is justified? According to our District Attorney, that’s always the case. What if the officer’s safety is at risk? According to police reports, that too is always the case.

Instead, to mitigate unfairness, we suggest in cases where the officer is not criminally prosecuted, they stay in city employ, fast-tracked for a meritorious civilian position, with no loss of pay, benefits or seniority.

We are living under threat of imminent harm. Besides the harm to the person with mental illness, their family and friends, and the city at large, cops have been harmed – some with permanent psychological scars. Cops have plenty of motivation to stop killing persons with mental illness. And they will – eventually.

But we who live with mental illness can no longer wait for “eventually.” We can no longer sit by and watch the body count rise. We don’t need promises, or best efforts, or court actions. We need an immediate cease-fire.

For ten years we’ve watched our friends die, while the state, county and city push out cosmetic non-solutions, and the usual suspects hem and haw about how to fix the problem. We hear fantastical proposals that often rest on the assumption that we have fewer constitutional rights. “Make it easier to lock them up!” “Force them to take medication!” “Build a new warehouse to put them in!” We get interminable what-if sessions that breed apathy and infighting.

We originally chose to direct our advocacy at police for two reasons. One, the mental health system (which has plenty of blood on its hands) didn’t kill our friends; cops did. Two, we believe cops are capable of understanding the problem and fixing it. They don’t shrink from outside scrutiny and work hard to get better.

We still believe they will be diligent in their application of the Department of Justice recommendations. But systemic change comes slowly. The system grinds, and perhaps ten years from now, we will no longer be under siege.

Slow remedies are unacceptable remedies.

We require nothing less than an immediate cease-fire, an end to unnecessary harm to persons with mental illness and other minorities.

We expect police – and future police commissioners – to embrace zero tolerance as an opportunity. We expect officers to recommit to the ideals of “protect and serve,” and remember why it was they became cops in the first place.

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Aaron Campbell wasn’t an immediate threat, Portland police chief testified, so Officer Ron Frashour didn’t have a right to shoot him

Posted by admin2 on 8th June 2012

From The Oregonian, June 11, 2012

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese stressed multiple times during testimony before an arbitrator that Aaron Campbell posed no immediate threat to police before Officer Ronald Frashour shot him.

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

“We don’t have a right to shoot him. He never displayed a weapon. He didn’t take any offensive action towards the officer,” Reese said in a sworn statement. “We can’t use force on him.”

For Campbell to have posed an immediate threat, the chief testified, he would have had to take an “offensive action” — “turn toward us, pull something out, take a shooting stance.”

The chief’s testimony Sept. 23, 2011, obtained by The Oregonian, stunned Portland police, union leaders and the union’s use-of-force expert, who say the chief articulated a new standard, one that’s inconsistent with their training. And in the end, the arbitrator discounted the chief’s stance in her March ruling that ordered the city to reinstate Frashour, who was fired in November 2010.

READ – Deposition of Portland Police Bureau Chief Mike Reese
READ – Deposition of W. Ken Katsaris, a ‘police training expert’ and hired witness of the Portland Police Association
READ – Deposition of James McCabe, a criminal justice professor, and hired witness of the City of Portland

It was yet another example of what the Campbell family’s attorney Tom Steenson has called a serious “disconnect” between Portland police command staff and bureau trainers that needs to be addressed for public safety.

“Courts have recognized (as does the Portland Police Bureau, according to evidence at the hearing) that an officer is not required to “await the glint of steel” before acting because it then may be ‘too late to take safety precautions,’” arbitrator Jane Wilkinson wrote.

A Portland police trainer’s testimony directly conflicted with the chief’s. Police are taught that if an officer reasonably believes a person is a significant immediate threat of death or serious physical injury, the officer would not have to wait to see a gun or see what the suspect intends to do with that gun, and would need to take “pre-emptive action.”

Action-reaction principle

Their training drills into officers the action-reaction principle that a suspect can pull a gun and shoot faster than an officer reacts.

On Jan. 29, 2010, Campbell, distraught and suicidal about his brother’s death, emerged from a Northeast Portland apartment with his back toward officers and his hands behind his head. Officer Ryan Lewton, trying to get Campbell to put his hands in the air, fired six beanbag rounds at him. Campbell ran toward a parked car and Frashour shot Campbell once in the back, killing him. Campbell was not armed, but Frashour said he thought Campbell was reaching for a gun.

The arbitrator found that a reasonable officer could have concluded that Campbell was armed and reaching for a gun. Mayor Sam Adams has refused to honor the ruling, and the city is challenging it before a state panel.

The chief testified that Campbell posed no immediate threat because police were called for a welfare check; no crime had occurred; Campbell had threatened no one but himself; and he emerged voluntarily without threatening police or showing a weapon.

During Reese’s cross-examination, union attorney Will Aitchison asked the chief again, would Campbell have had to “pull the gun out,” for him to be an immediate threat?

Reese answered: “They have to have somebody who is displaying something, a weapon, or some offensive action before he’s immediate.”

W. Ken Katsaris, an expert who has testified on behalf of the city in the past but was hired by the union in the Frashour arbitration, called Reese’s standard unusual.

Katsaris, noting that he’s been in law enforcement for 50 years and has spent 45 years training police, testified: “I have never heard of the fact that you have to see a gun or some action such as presenting the firearm first. I have never seen a court decision that ever required that. And I have never seen a policy or a directive or another police chief or sheriff in the country that has indicated that, in my experience.”

Katsaris further blasted the bureau’s physical-force policy, adopted in 2008, which is more restrictive than state or federal law. The directive says officers should accomplish the bureau’s mission “as effectively as possible with as little reliance on force as practical.”

The policy continues, “The Bureau places a high value on resolving confrontations, when practical, with less force than the maximum that may be allowed by law.”

Katsaris, who worked as a St. Petersburg officer and a Leon County Sheriff in Florida, characterized the directive as “feel-good value statements” that don’t give police guidance on when force should be used. “It’s untrainable, it’s untenable, it’s unreasonable, it’s wrong … and it’s left up for an interpretation,” he testified.

The city countered that Deputy City Attorney Dave Woboril in 2009 repeatedly has trained all officers, including Frashour, on the new bureau standard.

“Authority to act first”

A city-hired expert, James McCabe, a retired New York Police Department inspector who teaches criminal justice at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., testified that the action-reaction principle does not give the police the “authority to act first.”

It’s understood that a person “looking to pull a weapon and shoot an officer” is at a tactical advantage, he said.

“However,” McCabe testified, “that does not give license, if you will, to take preemptive force to prevent that. … Wait. … Allow the situation to unfold. Remain behind cover, maintain tactical advantage, and then wait for a peaceful resolution.”

The chief and McCabe argued that Campbell posed a “potential threat,” but police had superior firepower and a police dog, and Campbell was running away from officers. Even if he’d made it behind a parked car or back to his girlfriend’s apartment, police could have called in tactical officers to reassess. If Campbell was an immediate threat, they testified, why didn’t other officers fire their guns.

“I think Frashour overreacted,” McCabe testified. “He used a preemptive force to stop a potential threat. He should have waited.”

The union expert countered that Campbell was said to have talked about “suicide by cop” in the past, surprised police when he emerged from his girlfriend’s apartment, failed to follow orders to put his hands in the air and had texted his girlfriend, “Don’t make me get my gun. I ain’t playing.”

Katsaris said it was important for Campbell to put his hands in the air; officers are taught that he could have been palming or concealing a small-caliber gun with his hands behind his head.

In his termination letter, Reese cited Frashour’s “rigid and inflexible” approach to policing, and referred to an August 2008 incident in which Frashour rammed into the wrong car as police were trying to stop a reckless driver and his 2006 firing of a Taser at Frank Waterhouse, who was videotaping officers chasing a suspect. He also testified that Frashour’s firing was “the only correct decision to make with the loss of life.”

“I don’t think that we could improve his decision-making to where I could feel comfortable putting him back as a Portland police officer,” the chief testified.

Yet Reese broke ranks with the mayor this year, saying he did not support the city’s challenge of the arbitrator’s order. Reese declined comment for this story, citing the ongoing matter before the state Employment Relations Board.

No closure in Aaron Campbell killing

Editorial from The Oregonian, June 8, 2012

It is difficult to believe the unnecessary and fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell would hold yet more repugnant surprises. But the news this week that the Portland Police Bureau’s chief spokesman, Lt. Robert King, may have changed his sworn testimony about the findings of his review into the tragedy pushes our patience to the extreme.

Portland Police Lt. Robert King

Portland Police Lt. Robert King

King’s role and his words throughout the Campbell proceedings need immediate investigation. Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese were correct Thursday in requesting that the city’s independent auditor review arbitration and grand jury testimonies not only of King but of all witnesses to the shooting.

The sorry truth in this more than two-year-old case has been slow to arrive and isn’t here yet. The independent arbitrator reviewing the case, Jane R. Wilkinson, last year heard testimony that King and an associate had concluded in five successive draft reports that Officer Ronald Frashour, who fired the fatal shot, acted in a way that was consistent with his training. In a sixth and final report, however, King concluded otherwise.

READ – Partial transcript of Robert King’s testimony about the investigation of the shooting of Aaron Campbell by Ronald Frashour.
READ – Attorneys for Portland consider Frashour’s fatal shooting ‘unjustified and egregious’, The Oregonian
READ – City of Portland brief to the Employment Relations Board re. termination of Ronald Frashour

Now, an arbitration transcript obtained by The Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein shows King is on record as saying that he had never really asked police trainers to review the incident for him and that he discounted their opinions anyway because he felt they would be disinclined to rule against a fellow cop.

But King, who oversaw the training division’s review, ultimately decided Frashour had acted inappropriately. And Reese and Adams would soon fire Frashour.

Following the arbitrator’s ruling that Frashour acted in a manner consistent with his training, Reese swung around to support Frashour’s reinstatement. But Adams, as police commissioner, insists Frashour remain off the force and has a raft of arguments drafted by city attorneys to support his position.

King, it is worth noting, was sufficiently tortured by his reviewer role that he first considered demotion to avoid it, Bernstein reported. “I thought that I should revert to being a sergeant, because I didn’t want to take a position against an officer that would be harmful to him and his career, that could result in his termination,” he testified.

The unspeakable result for Aaron Campbell was mortal termination.

Transparency in the Campbell proceedings continues to lag. And the battle between City Hall and the union for control of the Police Bureau continues and clouds everything going forward.

On Friday, Adams was near exasperation.

“I’m calling the union out on this,” he told The Oregonian. “The selective release of arbitration transcripts is a federal violation. Our auditor will get the whole picture. And she will find what she finds. I am confident. I stand by our review.”

But we’re calling everyone out on this. The city of Portland needs closure and healing from the egregious killing of Campbell. And it won’t come in the next batch of dueling accounts of who said what to whom and when.

While Wilkinson cited federal law to support her view that a suspect reaching into a pocket could be viewed by a police sniper as armed, we take the view that anyone running away after being pelted by beanbags should first be seen as frightened rather than a serious threat. Not seeing that appears to be a failure of police action or police training or both.

More than two years ago, the Albina Ministerial Alliance correctly and effectively protested Campbell’s shooting as another inappropriate use of force against an unarmed, innocent citizen who posed no real threat. Yet Portland police won’t get it right until Campbell’s case is fully vetted, understood by everyone to mean the same thing and the source of learning both on the force and in the community.

The auditor’s review should be as swift as it is comprehensive, offering a legible path forward.

Portland police union calls for inquiry into testimony of Lt. Robert King, others in Ron Frashour firing

From The Oregonian, June 8, 2012

In sworn testimony before a state arbitrator in September, Portland police Lt. Robert King characterized the training division’s analysis of Officer Ronald Frashour’s fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell as a “coordinated effort among bureau training instructors.”

Portland Police Lt. Robert King

Portland Police Lt. Robert King

King, who oversaw the division’s review of the shooting and now serves as Portland police spokesman, told the arbitrator that he discussed the shooting “extensively” with seven bureau instructors and showed them a draft of his review. The review, King testified, concluded that Frashour did not act according to his training.

But King broke down in tears under cross-examination after union attorney Will Aitchison entered into evidence five drafts between May 12 and June 20, 2010, in which King found that Frashour had acted appropriately, before he suddenly concluded the opposite in his final June 21, 2010, review.

When grilled by the union attorney, King’s sworn testimony also changed and he acknowledged that he did not ask any trainers to review the full investigative files of the shooting and included none of their opinions in his final review, according to a transcript of King’s testimony obtained by The Oregonian. King testified over three days in late September 2011.

Police union leaders said the unusual turn of events suggests that Frashour’s firing was politically motivated and have asked for an independent investigation of King’s testimony and that of other city witnesses. They point to the fact that the review was done by a new lieutenant who veered from past practice by shutting out the opinions of lead police trainers, and that the findings changed after the May 12, 2010, appointment of Chief Mike Reese.

Further, the arbitration testimony revealed that the Portland Police Bureau has no policy or procedure for how its training reviews of police actions are to be done.

“As these drafts are being written, and as Lieutenant King changes his mind, the police chief is fired, we get a new police chief, appointed by a mayor who has already passed judgment on Officer Frashour,” Aitchison argued before the arbitrator. “The timing of this, I think, is significant.”

Mayor Sam Adams, who serves as police commissioner, called the union’s criticism of King “reprehensible and wrong,” likened it to “character assassination” and said it should be disregarded. “Enough is enough: (the) police union should stop bullying those who disagree with them,” Adams said.

Reese defended King, who would not comment for this story, as “well-qualified” to conduct the training review.

“To be clear, there was never an agreement between Mayor Adams and me prior to my appointment as chief of police regarding the outcome of this matter,” Reese wrote in a prepared statement. “To say otherwise is ludicrous and insulting.”

Trainers contradict King’s testimony

Aitchision asked why King, a new lieutenant at the time who hadn’t been a training instructor for at least 14 years, would ignore the opinions of the bureau’s training experts.

His answer: He doubted the training officers would rule against a fellow cop.

“One of the problems that we have in this situation is the trainers historically have not wanted to — I don’t think that they’ve wanted to write reviews that conclude that officers are out of training, for different reasons,” King testified. “It can have harmful effects in, say, a disciplinary proceeding like this one.”

Six of the seven police instructors from whom King said he had sought input contradicted his testimony, saying that no such conversations took place. Each testified that the first time they saw King’s training review was in September 2010, months after the final version was presented to a Use of Force Review Board, a panel of police and citizens who recommend discipline.

When King finally did share the final review, the lead training instructors objected in a tense meeting.

King, one trainer testified, responded by saying the bureau couldn’t ignore the political backdrop, and told them: “the elephant in the room is the fact that we shot and killed an unarmed black man.”

“I was disappointed because I think at that moment me and every other lead instructor, as I found out later, felt that that analysis was not immune to the political pressures of this case,” the defensive tactics instructor testified.

The testimony echoed concerns raised by Campbell’s family attorney, Tom Steenson, about the need for the chief to address an obvious “disconnect” between command staff and police trainers on bureau training and policy.

Said Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner: “Lt. King had a moral and civil obligation to conduct a full and thorough training review based on the facts; not on political pressure.”

Tearful testimony

Under questioning from the union lawyer, King said he regretted not including the trainers’ opinions, and during his cross-examination sought to explain how his decision-making evolved.

He testified that as a former union president and as an officer who’d had two fatal shootings scrutinized by the bureau, he was reluctant to rule against Frashour. He even considered a demotion to avoid doing so.

“This report, going through this process, was the single-most difficult thing that I’ve done in my police career,” he testified, through tears. “I was a probationary lieutenant at the time, and I contemplated demoting. I thought that I should revert to being a sergeant because I didn’t want to take a position against an officer that would be harmful to him and his career, that could result in his termination. I’d been with officers throughout the course of my career who have made those difficult decisions, and I’ve been with them and didn’t want to see them harmed.”

Up until a point, King testified, he was reluctant to be critical of Frashour’s actions.

“He’s (Frashour) saying all these sorts of things that I would expect to hear him and other officers in a situation like this to say. But it’s incumbent upon us as a Police Bureau to look very carefully and very thoughtfully, without regard to what anyone else will think or feel … at what they did and why they did it, and, if necessary, arrive at conclusions that are not what trainers or other officers or the officer himself or the union would like.”

King denied that he had been swayed by anyone in the chief’s office to find that Frashour had not complied with training. However the union submitted an email that King received from a sergeant in the chief’s office June 23, 2010, with an edited version of King’s training review attached. The subject line said, “Changes I’ve made.”

Although King had no extensive talks with the bureau’s training instructors, now-retired Officer Mike Stradley testified that King called him to discuss the shooting in depth, and at that time, they agreed that Frashour had acted as trained.

Just before Reese sent Frashour his final termination letter, Turner, the union president, and Aitchison, the union attorney, met with the chief. At that point, the union wasn’t aware of the multiple training draft reviews, but did alert the chief that the bureau’s lead instructors had disagreed with King’s findings and found that Frashour had followed his training.

When called to testify before the arbitrator, Reese was asked whether he had spoken to any of the trainers to verify that. The chief said no, but he did ask then-training Capt. Bob Day — who was at the scene of the Campbell shooting — about it. Day dismissed the union concern, telling the chief the trainers were “disgruntled,” Reese testified.

Portland mayor asks city auditor to review arbitration testimony in Frashour case

From The Oregonian, June 7, 2012

Mayor Sam Adams Thursday night said he has asked the city auditor to conduct a review of the testimony offered in the arbitration hearings on the firing of Officer Ron Frashour “in light of the serious accusations” made by the Portland police union president.

Adams request comes a day after Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner called for an independent investigation of Lt. Robert King’s testimony and that of other command staff.

Union leaders argue that Frashour’s firing for his fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell on Jan. 29, 2010 was politically motivated. The union pointed to the fact that the bureau’s training review of the shooting was done by Lt. Robert King, who was relatively new in the training division at the time, and veered from past practice by shutting out the opinions of lead police training instructors.

King’s testimony before an arbitrator in September 2011, according to transcripts obtained by The Oregonian and reported in a story that ran in the paper Thursday, changed during his cross-examination by union attorney Will Aitchison.

During his direct examination, King first characterized the training division’s analysis of the shooting as a “coordinated effort among bureau training instructors.” He said he had discussed the shooting “extensively” with seven bureau instructors and showed them a draft of the review, which found Frashour did not act according to his training.

Yet King broke down in tears under cross examination after the union attorney entered into evidence five drafts of training reviews King wrote between May 12 and June 20, 2010, in which King found that Frashour had acted appropriately, before he suddenly concluded the opposite in his final June 21, 2010 review. King also acknowledged during cross-examination that he did not ask any trainers to review the full investigative files of the shooting and included none of their opinions in his final review, according to the transcripts.

When the union president first called for an independent investigation on Wednesday, the mayor released a statement, saying the union should stop “bullying” those they disagree with and that the “union’s rant should be disregarded.”

By Thursday night, Adams released this statement: “Tonight I asked the city’s independently elected auditor to review the testimony in the Frashour arbitration matter. This request is in light of the very serious accusations the Portland Police Union president made against members of the PPB command staff – as well as the Chief and me – in an attempt to discredit them.”

Turner, reached Thursday night, said he had not seen the mayor’s statement and could not comment.

On his Facebook page, the mayor released his letter to the auditor:

Auditor Griffin-Valade:

As you know a recent article in the Rap Sheet written by PPA president Daryl Turner called into question the involvement, decision making and ethics of myself, Chief of Police Mike Reese and various members of Police command staff in the Ronald Frashour arbitration matter. On behalf of Chief Reese and myself, I am writing to request that you complete an independent review of the testimony of all Bureau members who were involved -from the initial interviews through arbitration hearings.

Thank you and I appreciate your willingness to accept this request.

Sam Adams

Mayor asks auditor to review Campbell shooting testimony

Auditor says she will lead a team to look for material inconsistencies that require further investigation
From the Portland Tribune, June 7, 2012

Mayor Sam Adams has asked City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade to review all of the testimony given by city employees related to the police killing of Aaron Campbell.

The request, which was emailed to Griffin-Valade Thursday evening, includes all the testimony given during the arbitration proceedings that reversed the decision by Adams to fire Ron Frashour, the officer who shot Campbell.

Griffin-Valade tells the Portland Tribune she will lead a four-person team from within her office that will review the testimony given by city employees in all administrative reviews conducted by the Portland Police Bureau into the shooting, as well as all testimony given during the arbitration hearings. Griffin-Valade said the review will look for material inconsistencies that could require further investigation. If the team finds any, they will be investigated by the Independent Police Review division of the auditor’s office.

“I hope to wrap this up as expeditiously as possible because this is a matter of great public concern,” said Griffin-Valade.

Adams is refusing to obey the arbitrator and rehire Frashour. The Portland Police Association that represents rank-and-file bureau employees has filed an unfair labor practice in the matter with the state Employment Relations Board and has also demanded that Frashour be re-hired.

Adams’ request comes after PPA President Daryl Turner wrote an article in the police union newspaper the Rap Sheet saying the decision to fire Frashour was political. Among other things, Turner said then-training Lt. Robert King only said Frashour violated bureau policies in the final version of his report on the matter.

The earlier drafts did not say Frashour violated bureau policies, wrote Turner, who also said King did not ask any training officers to review his drafts or the investigative files.

Frashour shot Campbell in the back with a sniper rifle after a lengthy police standoff at a Northeast Portland motel in January 2010 Although police had been told Campbell was armed, he did not have a gun on him when he was shot.

At the time of his death, Campbell, an African-American, was upset by the recent death of his brother. The killing sparked community protests, including a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who denounced it.

Adams and then-Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman subsequently asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate it and a number of other incidents where the police killed minority members. The review is ongoing.

Adams took the police bureau from Saltzman before firing Frashour.

Here is the email Adams sent to Griffin-Valade:

Auditor Griffin-Valade:

As you know, a recent article in the Rap Sheet written by PPA President Daryl Turner called into question the involvement, decision making and ethics of myself, Chief of Police Mike Reese, and various members of Police command staff in the Ronald Frashour arbitration matter. On behalf of Chief Reese and myself, I am writing to request that you complete an independent review of the testimony of all Bureau members who were involved–from the initial interviews through arbitration hearings.

Thank you, and I appreciate your willingness to accept this request.

Sam Adams – Mayor

READ – Portland Auditor Agrees To Review Police Shooting Case,
READ – Adams asks for independent review of Campbell shooting testimony,
READ – BREAKING: Mayor Asks Auditor to Review Frashour Arbitration Testimony, Portland Mercury

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Shot on the Street
What the Shooting of Two Homeless Men Ought to Mean for Portland’s Camping Ban

Posted by admin2 on 5th March 2012

By Denis C. Theriault, Portland Mercury, March 01, 2012

It was about 9pm on a blustery, rain-soaked Tuesday night — and, yet, thanks to a horde of Mardi Gras revelers, Old Town was unusually festive.

Precisely what happened next isn’t exactly clear, but the basic inflections of the story, told by a handful of different people, all agree on one point: A group of homeless men had been turned away from their usual overnight spot at Right 2 Dream Too (R2D2) — the camp-like refuge on NW 4th and Burnside — because the small lot, dotted by a few dozen tents, had already been filled by others with nowhere to go.

Shelter space, like it is every winter night, was also tight, and so the men had to make do. They could have crashed on the sidewalk across from R2D2, waiting amid drunken noise and dampness, until a tent maybe opened up in the wee hours. Instead, they split up. One man went in one direction, and the other two went another: east, across the Willamette River and down into the grim-but-dry industrial underbelly of the Morrison Bridge.

Sometime before 5am on Wednesday, February 22, they were sleeping, covered, when a dark-colored station wagon pulled down SE Belmont. Someone inside leaned out with a gun and opened fire, and then the car vanished as quickly as it arrived. Carter Hickman, 57, took a bullet to the chest, while Albert Dean, 43, was merely grazed — and soon both men were on the way to OHSU.

As crimes go, this was particularly horrifying. And the questions, and the fears, remain fresh: Did the men do something to bring this upon themselves? Or was this one of those rare, random, senseless incidents?

But none of that really matters. Because this was something else: a wakeup call. On the streets, violence and vulnerability are inextricably linked — it’s just that we never really hear much about it. According to Multnomah County’s 2011 one-day homeless street count, nearly half of unsheltered people reported enduring some kind of violence that might otherwise have been avoided behind walls or if they were just somewhere safe.

And that wakeup call comes at a portentous time for Portland. Twin protests over the city’s ban on tent camping — one of them around the clock — remain outside city hall, confronting staffers and politicians with the issue daily. On February 29, after at least one false start, the city is scheduled to present a tepid plan to settle a years-long federal lawsuit over that same camping ban. And March 1 will mark the second month of steep fines for R2D2′s landlord — continuing a code enforcement crackdown on the well-managed safe haven for the homeless that, its backers say, the city really ought to be embracing instead.

Like Chasing Ghosts

Until the night they were shot, Hickman and Dean — better known by some as “Joe” and “Allen,” respectively — had been staying off and on at R2D2 for about five weeks. They had a regular tent near the rest area’s entrance, specially chosen because of their work schedule.

“We’d always put them in the same spot” in C7, said Joe Green, R2D2′s top security man, a couple of days after the shooting. “They always had to get up early to go to work.”

That’s the point of Right 2 Dream Too. It’s built so people who need a night’s sleep, or several, or a place to dry out, can sack out in peace and store their belongings — and then maybe get their bearings enough to find and keep a job and begin the slog back up to self-sufficiency.

Most nights, if its residents can’t make it back early enough, there’s a long line of people hoping to check in by 7 pm. The site holds up to 80 people, and on any given day, two or three dozen of them are new faces.

Joe and Allen and their friend became quiet fixtures at the site, Green and others say. When they weren’t working, they would help keep things tidy and even helped reengineer some tents. They would take meals at Sisters of the Road or at nearby churches.

“There were always the three of them,” Green says. “We would call them our workers.”

Later, an Occupy Portland member wrote that he remembered seeing the men in camp last fall.

But learning more about Joe and Allen was, in some ways, like chasing ghosts. On Friday, February 24, police said, both were still in OHSU, with Hickman expected to live. But an OHSU switchboard operator said there was no record Hickman had ever been at the hospital and said Dean, despite what police said, had been released from the emergency room after the shooting.

Neither man has a serious criminal record in Multnomah County. Court records, in fact, show just a single TriMet exclusion for each, issued on separate days in August 2011. The files list the same cell phone number (it’s not working) and a common address, the Portland Rescue Mission, at 111 W Burnside.

It was only after I made my way to the end of the dozens-strong line of Rescue Mission visitors that someone’s ears perked up. “I know them,” said a stricken-looking younger man, who gave his name as John. “They came from Seattle.”

On his way inside the mission, John offered a heartbreaking detail: He said the men weren’t just friends, but partners who were living “as husband and husband.”

“They’re my best friends,” he finished, before disappearing inside.

“Am I Scared? I Don’t Know”

It’s still unclear, publicly at least, why Joe and Allen were shot. Police, despite offering a $1,000 reward for tips (503-823-4357), are sharing precious little about what detectives have uncovered, including during their interviews with the two men.

Rhetoric at city hall and among social services providers immediately homed in on the possibility that the attack was random — a sociopathic strike against two people who did nothing more than bunk up on a sidewalk under a bridge. That fear was felt on the streets.

Less than 24 hours later, a block east of the shooting, a man named Tim was propped up in a lawn chair keeping watch on three blanket-swaddled companions, one of them a pregnant woman. It was a gritty vigil, with trains lurching past a few blocks away, cars rumbling overhead, and rats skittering for food scraps.

“Am I scared?” he said. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I can get any sleep. Being out here like this, I don’t want someone to roll up and go pow-pow-pow-pow.”

Since then, reactions have grown more measured. But the emphasis on vulnerability remains.

“In terms of this specific incident, we don’t have a good idea yet of what was happening there. But we do know that people sleeping on the streets take a variety of different risks,” says Marc Jolin of JOIN, an agency that works to link homeless Portlanders with services and housing. “Violence, theft, assault. That is not uncommon. We get reports from folks of the violence they experience at the hands of partners on the street, and verbal and physical assaults… from strangers.”

The 2011 street count found more than 1,700 people sleeping outside, and a few thousand more in emergency shelters. The Portland Police Bureau does not directly track how many reports each year involve someone who’s considered homeless. Nor does the bureau track cases in which violence seems to be motivated solely because a victim is homeless. Multnomah County, alongside Street Roots, is currently trying to put a number on how many homeless Portlanders die on the streets — of natural causes and otherwise.

The National Coalition for the Homeless, however, has tracked a modest increase in hate-crime-like attacks against Oregon’s homeless in recent years. Overall, from 1999 to 2009, it counted 37 attacks, 10 of them fatal.

But some attacks never lead to a report. Not that they don’t hurt. The same night Joe and Allen were turned away from R2D2 — Fat Tuesday — drunks walking by couldn’t resist pounding on the site’s walls or shouting insults, says one of the men keeping watch that night, Dale Ardway.

Inside the Machine

The plight of Right 2 Dream Too — founded in October 2011 by the same organizers behind Dignity Village out by the airport — has added new electricity to the fight against Portland’s camping ban.

And because it sits on private land, hosted by a landlord who’s partially trying to jab a finger in the city’s eye, R2D2 has had time to show off its success. Cops in the area appreciate the eyes on the street. Neighbors, looking past the fact that the site sits under the Chinatown Gate, appreciate the quiet respect R2D2′s residents have for the area.

The place runs like a machine, with security patrols around downtown, governing meetings, ample storehouses of tools, blankets, and food, and strict rules against intoxication and violence. It’s given hope and offered a model for how to cheaply, if still imperfectly, help people in need at a time when government coffers are starving just as much. R2D2 takes couples and pets and undocumented immigrants, and asks few questions — something the shelters in town don’t always do.

And yet the city has declared the place an unpermitted recreational campground — and is bombarding its landlord with massive fines that could drive it out of existence. Getting a permit, and adding facilities like a sewer line to get legal, are too expensive for volunteers who rely on donations to pay for steady bills like laundry, electricity, and porta-potty service.

“We provide walls. We provide security, and they want to charge us money for something they should be doing,” says Ibrahim Mubarak, an R2D2 spokesman and founder.

Mubarak says close to 600 people passed through the site from February 1-15, and that security has to kindly refuse, on some nights, up to 20 people. Nearly a dozen inhabitants have found more permanent housing, he says, and dozens more have used the respite to find work.

They’re raising money, dreaming of a bigger lot downtown, close to social services—and pleading with city hall.

“If they close us down, where are these people going to go?” asks Mubarak. “What sidewalk can they sleep on?”

A Chill From City Hall

Reaction from Portland City Hall has so far been frigid. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who runs the city bureau in charge of code enforcement, has steadfastly refused to waive any fines. In fact, his office says, they’re considering whether to ask a city hearings officer for permission to dramatically increase the $641 monthly fine in coming months.

At one point there was hope among organizers that Commissioner Amanda Fritz might broker a compromise — she showed up at a march in support of the site — but that talk has since fizzled.

Portland’s housing commissioner, Nick Fish, also has been quiet about the site. In the aftermath of the shooting, he issued a statement lashing out at the attack, but it was criticized by some advocates for not being more vocally supportive of R2D2.

“The city is making progress in its effort to end homelessness,” he wrote. “The opening of Bud Clark Commons is but one notable example. This shameful criminal act reminds us that everyone in our community deserves a safe and decent place to call home.”

The Commons, which wouldn’t be here without Fish, has been a godsend — for some. It has a day center that’s helped thousands since June 2011, but its shelter has room for only 90 men at a time, and its 130 apartments for the chronically homeless are already full (and they also allow substance abuse). Then there’s the cost: $47 million, making it hardly replicable.

If Fish is sympathetic to R2D2′s model, he’s keeping his cards very close. After protesters filled his office earlier this month, he agreed to sit down with Saltzman and talk about R2D2 — nothing more.

In his favor, last December Fish did push the council (over the clamor of the Portland Business Alliance) into backing a car-camping pilot program that could, one day, be stretched to include a site like R2D2. Under his plan, churches and nonprofits would be able to host as many as four cars, with a written agreement from Saltzman’s office directing code enforcers to turn a blind eye.

A dozen or so churches have expressed interest, and the Portland Housing Bureau is expected to release specific guidelines as soon as this week.

But when asked about R2D2 the day after Joe and Allen’s shooting — after the Mercury first reported the men had stayed there — Fish walked very carefully.

Instead, he said the shooting of Joe and Allen was a chance to rally against looming city budget cuts that might threaten millions in cash for things like short-term rent assistance, more social services, and more brick-and-mortar housing.

“I want to know what the options are at this site first,” he says. “You know there’s not support on this council for the wholesale relaxation of the camping ordinance, even though as practical matter we don’t always enforce it.”

The fluid nature of the city’s camping ban — a term of art some of its lawyers disagree with — is glaringly obvious down under the Morrison and Hawthorne Bridges, where some people prop up tarps and other structures that offer more cover than mere bedrolls.

It’s up to officers, right now, to decide when to enforce city rules against tents and sidewalk sleeping. One officer’s wishes on one night may not be the same as another cop’s on another night. Just like violence, that murkiness is another fact of life for Portlanders on the streets.

And whatever settlement emerges from court may not make that any clearer.

A previous attempt at an agreement would have allowed small tent clusters. The latest version, last time the city discussed it on the record, was expected to include only changes in training and enforcement, but not any exemptions.

“There’s no ban in town. It’s happening. It’s tolerated,” says David Woboril, a deputy city attorney who handles police issues and isn’t working on the settlement. “But the city has to manage it.”

Woboril and Fish both said the city worries that large camps won’t always be as well run as R2D2 — and will cost the city resources to keep the peace.

“Large camps have a victim problem,” Woboril says. “That’s always the question: Can you do it on a large scale?”

The folks at R2D2 say they, at least, have earned the right to keep trying. Mubarak says activists from California and cities across Oregon have come around to take notes. Cities don’t have to spend big, he says, or surrender the rule of law to let homeless residents help themselves.

Joe Green, R2D2′s main security volunteer, was thinking about all the other homeless Portlanders who could’ve wound up like Joe and Allen.

“Without us,” he said, “there’d be a whole lot more lives at stake.”

The Mercury’s Sarah Mirk contributed to this report.
Photos by Daniel Cronin

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Two Homeless Men Shot Under Morrison Bridge Were Turned Away From Shelter the Night Before

Posted by admin2 on 25th February 2012

By David Stabler, The Oregonian, Friday, February 24, 2012

Because it was full, the Right2DreamToo tent area in Old Town turned away the two men who were later shot under the Morrison Bridge. The organization turns away an average of 20 people a night.

Benjamin Brink / The Oregonian
Because it was full, the Right 2 Dream Too tent area in Old Town turned away the two men who were later shot under the Morrison Bridge. The organization turns away an average of 20 people a night.

Hours before they bedded down Tuesday night under the Morrison Bridge, Carter “Joe” Hickman and Albert “Allen” Dean, sought shelter at an Old Town homeless tent area, said Ibrahim Mubarak, who runs the shelter. They were turned away for lack of room — an increasingly common event for Portland-area shelters.

At 5:12 a.m. Wednesday, Portland police officers responded to reports of a shooting under the bridge’s east side. Hickman, 57, and Dean, 43, were shot while they slept. Both are expected to survive. The assailant remains unknown, but police have a description of the vehicle.

The two men had shown up Tuesday night with a third friend, Mubarak said. “All three were turned away because we were full,” he said. Each night, the shelter, Right 2 Dream Too, turns away an average of 20 people, he said.

Mubarak knows Hickman, who remains in fair condition at OHSU Hospital. Hickman frequently slept at the shelter, which occupies a vacant lot by Old Town’s Chinese Gates. Dean was treated for a grazing wound and released.

The circumstances of Wednesday’s shooting underscore the area’s severe shortage of homeless shelters. Demand has never been higher, advocates say.

Hickman and Dean are two of the roughly 2,700 homeless people who sleep outside, in vehicles, abandoned buildings or in Multnomah County’s emergency shelters. In Washington County, 1,356 people were homeless or in transitional housing on a one-night count in 2011. Clackamas County homeless numbered 2,747 last year, with only 48 beds in emergency shelters.

Homelessness increased 8 percent in Multnomah County in 2011, according to a survey by Portland Housing Bureau and Multnomah County. In January, 361 men and 173 women were waiting for a room at Transition Projects Inc., Portland’s largest homeless agency for single adults.

Portland Homeless Family Solutions, which shelters families, used to overfill three or four times a year. Today, the agency fills 75 percent of the time, said Brandi Tuck, Executive Director. “For years, we have not had less than capacity,” she said. Twenty families are waiting for shelter. The average wait is one month.

A night of homelessness in Multnomah County

This one-night count was conducted Jan. 26, 2011

Homeless: 2,727, up 8 percent over 2009

Turned away on a single night: 538

Families with children: 1,331, up 35 percent from 2009

Slept on: sidewalks or streets, 780; under bridges, 193; in vehicles, 150

Median duration of homelessness: two years for single adults; one year for single-parent families

Veterans: 12 percent

Disabled: 50 percent

Source: Portland Housing Bureau; Multnomah County

Portland isn’t alone. A woman waited six months to get into My Sister’s House, a woman’s shelter in Gresham, said director Becky Coleman. Another shelter, My Father’s House, is also full.

“A lot of homeless just camp out on the Springwater Corridor or downtown in alleyways, underneath awnings,” Coleman said.

Washington County’s three homeless shelters are full, too. In January, 64 families were waiting for emergency shelter, said Annette M. Evans, Homeless Program Coordinator for Washington County’s Department of Housing Services.

Demand no longer spikes only in winter, advocates said.

“When I first came here 17 years ago, we would see a substantial difference between summer and winter,” said Doreen Binder, Transition Projects’ Executive Director. “We don’t see that anymore.”

When winter warming shelters close in spring, demand at other emergency shelters rises, said CityTeam’s Roger Burke.

With shelters chronically full, it’s hard to track changes in demand. But another yardstick, meals served to the homeless, shows increased demand. Zarephath Kitchen in Gresham served a record 142,000 meals last year. Portland Rescue Mission on West Burnside normally serves 250 to 350 meals a day. Last Tuesday, it dished up 420.

Age is another change in homelessness. Today’s homeless men and women are younger than in previous years. More mothers and children are homeless, as well, advocates said.

“We used to see a lot of two-parent families with kids who had been around for a while,” Tuck said. “Now, we’re seeing younger parents with toddlers.”

At 5 p.m. Thursday, a line of men stretched down a Portland block, each hoping to secure a mat to sleep on the floor at CityTeam International, a homeless shelter on Grand Avenue.

When the doors opened at 6 p.m., the line surged forward. Within 10 minutes, all but six of the 51 spots were taken.

“We can’t keep up,” said Rev. Chuck Currie, who has worked with homeless issues for 25 years. “Portland is the national model for how to address homelessness, but that only shows you how bad off the rest of the country is.”

Deborah Kafoury, a Multnomah County commissioner who works on housing issues, points to programs such as Rapid Rehousing for Homeless Families as one solution. The program seeks to get families into permanent housing quickly, often by working with landlords.

“When families lose their housing, we’ve found jumping through a bunch of hoops is not helpful to anyone and costs more money,” she said.

Also see:

Portland Mercury: Drive-By Shooting Injures Two Homeless Men Sleeping Under Morrison Bridge
Portland Mercury: Homeless Men Shot Under Morrison Bridge Had Been Turned Away from Packed Old Town Tent Refuge
KATU TV: Two homeless men shot in ‘drive-by’ under Morrison Bridge
KPTV TV: Homeless men shot while sleeping under Morrison Bridge
Rev. Chuck Currie: Statement On Ash Wednesday Shootings Of Homeless Portlanders
The Oregonian: Two Homeless Men Shot While Sleeping Under Morrison Bridge
The Oregonian: Police Release Suspect Information, Victim Names in Homeless Shooting
Right 2 Survive Pdx: Right 2 Dream Too Response to Shootings of Two Unhoused Men

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