Burnside ‘houseless’ relocation now hot topic

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An encampment formed by a group that calls itself Right 2 Dream Too went up in the shadow of Portland’s Chinatown arch after the property’s landowner lost a bitter battle with the city of Portland.

Now, another battle with the city may have the camp moving from the corner of 4th and Burnside to another site.

Homeless campers set up the 'Right to Dream' site on Burnside in Portland (KOIN 6 News,. file)
Homeless campers set up the “Right 2 Dream Too” site on Burnside Street in Portland. (KOIN 6 News, file)

Negotiations are still underway Wednesday to move the Right 2 Dream Too camp from its current spot to another spot within the city. But it comes in the face of increasing criticism from people blasting the city over negotiating it at all. And many are wondering if what these campers are doing is wrong why the city doesn’t just kick them out?

Talk of a new home for the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp includes the possibility of taxpayer money being spent. It also includes an option to hand over Portland Development Commission property. That proposed new property is on the edge of the Pearl District.

“This is reality that houseless people are not going to go away,” said camp leader Ibrahim Mubarak.

8-28-13-houseless people quoteLate Wednesday afternoon the Pearl District Neighborhood Association sent a letter to Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz. She’s handling negotiations for the city. They are blasting the project and the city’s negotiation process, calling it a violation of trust and integrity. They claim the city avoided public input — because leaders knew it would be controversial.

KOIN 6 News tried to track down Commissioner Fritz by phone. When she didn’t return calls, KOIN 6 News went to city hall — only to be told no one in her office was available.

8-28-13-inside Right 2 Dream Too-b
FILE – “Houseless” campers set up inside the “Right 2 Dream Too” site on Burnside in Portland. (KOIN 6 News, file)

So why is the city negotiating with the camp, instead of just kicking them out?

“These folks are technically tenants,” said Portland attorney Bruce McCain. “They’ve signed a lease with a landlord to occupy those premises, so the city of Portland — for example — can’t just go around kicking tenants out of landlords’ properties … You can’t kick people out of a private residence when they hold a lease.”

So the fight here is really between the land owner and the city — and it’s nothing new.

“That particular piece of real estate has been a sore spot for the city of Portland and that landowner for many years,” McCain said.

All of this started when the city shut down the landowner’s adult bookstore. He responded by leasing the land to the homeless group for $1 a year.  The city imposed $25,000 in fines on the landowner, and he responded with a lawsuit.

If the two sides can come to an agreement, and this camp moves, the slate clean would be wiped clean. However, there’s still one more holdup: the owner of this 4th and Burnside plot said he wants the city to no longer put guidelines on what he can do with the property in the future.

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