Three months ago, the Portland City Council came to Lents for a town hall meeting on Lents Park and livability issues. Based on the anniversary and the fact that the city Council is returning for a meeting tonight (FB invitation), I thought it’d be a good idea to revisit the issues raised.

82nd Avenue City Council Meeting * Jade/APANO Multi-Cultural Space, 8114 SE 81st Ave * Tuesday, July 11, 5:45 pm – 8 pm

On Sunday, July 9th, I took a tour with Jennifer Young, a neighborhood advocate and the person who organized the town hall in April (our story on the meeting). She said there has been some progress, including better management of Lents Park and tighter rules for dangerous RVs being used as homes.

Young is out on the street almost daily, she said, and sometimes devotes nearly 40 hours per week working with her neighbors. We had a wide-ranging conversation about City enforcement, homeless advocates, the anti-sweep resolution passed by the Montavilla Neighborhood Association, and several other topics.

Young said she has been assisting leadership in other neighborhood, and seems very open to share what she knows about working with the different levels of government and homeless advocates.

After recently attending a meeting in Foster Powell, Young said they are having serious livability concerns as well. She recommended the City’s One Point of Contact for neighbors having problems with nearby homeless campers.

Her concern seems more about fighting lawlessness rather than homelessness, but listen for yourself:

I picked out a few highlights if you’re pressed for time:

0:00 – We start the tour at Lents Park. She said the City is chaining off the parking lot every night, so Young counts that as progress. No Overnight Parking signs were installed almost immediately after the town hall, she said.

2:15 – The City has established new tow policies for RVs, Young said, and about a month ago the City towed the first two occupied vehicles. She said the RVs have to be a bio-hazard or serious livability concern to trigger the new policy.

15:15 – Young talks about how she organizes action alerts to help neighbors report problems.

20:20 – Young said the anti-homeless sweep resolution passed by the Montavilla Neighborhood Association doesn’t make sense for Lents, a neighborhood that has much more homeless camping.

Just one camp in April had 30 homeless people, and she said when the police intervened, 18 had warrants and many were sex offenders.

29:40 – Young points out that many long-term homeless Lents neighbors who don’t cause trouble (one in the same place for seven years), have suffered when more lawless out of town campers moved in.

33:30 – Young talks about the availability of in-patient drug treatment options, and that there are usually spots available.

39:30 – Clackamas County service providers are offering services to Lents homeless, Young said. She thinks it’s wrong because Clackamas County doesn’t allow camping, and their services are drawing more campers to the Lents neighborhood.

1:03:00 – Young said the City hasn’t been offering “wrap services” lately. Wrap services bring a team of service workers out into the field to help homeless folk. Seattle handles it better, and she recommended this hour-long documentary on the topic that shows them in action

1:11:00 – Young tells a story about a conversation with an RV dweller who she says is a notorious drug dealer, and her focus on crime rather than homelessness. (There are gaps in the recording because she didn’t want to name one of the drug dealers.)

I’ve talked with a lot of different Portlanders dedicated to this issue lately: Young on Sunday and MNA chair Jonnie Shaver last week. I think it’s important to hear different opinions on the topic, and let people tell their stories.

Even in the face of differing opinions, strong emotions, and slow progress, I believe it’s important to maintain a level of mutual respect— because these are people taking time out of their lives to get involved.