PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler says he’s optimistic that there are solutions for Portland’s homeless problem, but that the city “jumped the shark” on using Terminal 1 as a shelter.
His comments come after visiting a homeless facility in San Antonio over the weekend. But he’s also quick to say that the proposed shelter at Terminal One is not the long term-answer right now.
“Terminal One has a host of opportunities but also a host of problems,” he said.
This is a topic Wheeler is passionate about, reiterating that a large part of why he got elected is because people are upset about the homeless crisis in Portland’s streets.
Determined to find solutions, he took a trip (on his own dime) to San Antonio a few days ago to tour a facility there called ‘Haven for Hope.’
Since it opened 6 years ago, more than 3,000 people served there have moved into permanent housing.
Wheeler called it a humane, safe and controlled environment. It’s not living under a tree or a bridge, and it also connects people to services to help them get off the street.
But Wheeler said to build a similar place in Portland will take planning from the ground-up.
To that end, he said all the talk about placing such a facility at the Terminal One site is premature, coming way too early. And that’s not just because the site is facing legal and financial issues. In fact, the mayor-elect said he didn’t tour ‘Haven for Hope’ with Terminal One in mind.
“I didn’t raise the question of Terminal One once when I was in San Antonio,” Wheeler said.
The very first thing Wheeler needs to know is in place before planning a facility is that philanthropic and private sector funding is secured to help fund it.
“I just sort of feel that here we sort of jumped all the way to the end of the process,” Wheeler said. “If there’s a way to jump the shark on a homeless shelter, this is it. We jumped to the question of where before we got to the consensus and the funding.”
The mayor-elect said he does believe a place like Haven for Hope can work here in Portland