Peninsula Crossing Trail Press Conference

Good morning. I’m Susheela Jayapal, MultCo Commissioner for District 2, which consists of North, Northeast, and parts of East Portland, and includes the PCT and the Sunderland locations announced today.

I want to begin by thanking the City of Portland, and Commissioner Ryan and his team, for their partnership with the County in developing a range of shelter and housing options for people experiencing houselessness. 

We know that the solution to houselessness is housing - and the support services needed to stabilize people in their homes. 

So when we say housing first, we do not mean housing only. We mean housing, and services. That’s how the Joint Office of Homeless Services has housed more than 1,700 neighbors since July, literally moving them back into homes of their own. 

But we also know that we need a range of shorter term shelter options as well, to help address the immediate health and safety needs of people living unsheltered.

That’s why, over the last several years, the City and County have expanded our continuum of care for people experiencing houselessness. 

We have dramatically expanded our shelter system: from 650 or so beds in 2015, in fewer than a dozen shelters, to more than 1,600 beds, motel rooms and sleeping pods funded today, across more than 30 shelters. We have added 300 beds since July alone, with more under development. Because of that work, we will emerge from COVID with hundreds more year-round, services-enriched beds. 

We’ve also expanded the types of shelters we have developed, adding village models such as the St Johns Village, the Kenton Women’s Village, and Beacon Village PDX, which just opened in Montavilla; outdoor managed camps; isolation motels and motels designed specifically for people with behavioral health issues; and our new hybrid shelter in Arbor Lodge, with pods outside and beds inside.

All of these shelters are part of a broader continuum of care that includes preventing houselessness in the first place, such as through our eviction prevention work; and moving people into housing by providing rent assistance and supportive services. And they are designed to be not just a place to sleep at night, but rather, to be a stepping stone on the pathway to permanent housing.

The Safe Rest Villages that will be sited at these locations will be part of that continuum of care.

The two in my district are both in areas where we have seen a longstanding and growing presence of people living unsheltered, in tents and vehicles. Siting these villages where people already are will provide more humane conditions, and that pathway to services and housing. 

I want to close by thanking housed neighbors in the surrounding areas. Although the growth of unsheltered camping has created health and safety issues for them as well, they have been supportive of creating managed sites in these locations. In fact, I first started advocating for a safe parking site near the Sunderland neighborhood after being approached by constituents who had created a plan for such a site, but hadn’t been able to secure a location for it.

Addressing our crisis of houselessness is not one person’s job. It’s not one agency’s job, or one government’s job. It is everyone’s job. Everyone has a part to play. 

I’m very grateful to the residents of District 2 for playing their part. 

Your support provides a model for the rest of the City and the County. I know you’ll have a lot of questions; and there are a lot of details to be filled in, but I’m confident that, working together, these sites will be an important addition to our system. Thank you for your partnership, and I look forward to working with you to bring these projects to fruition.