R2DToo to move to site near Moda Center

"It's one of the best spots we've seen in a few years," R2DToo co-founder said

The Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp in Old Town in Portland (Portland Tribune, file)
The Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp in Old Town in Portland (Portland Tribune, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The future of homeless camp Right 2 Dream Too has finally come into view after months of uncertainty and the possibility of eviction.

On Thursday, city and camp leaders announced R2DToo will move from its current location at NW 4th Avenue and Burnside Street within the next 60 days.

A deal has been reached to relocate the camp to a spot between the Moda Center and the Willamette River. The so-called Thunderbird site is owned by the Portland Bureau of Transportation. It’s a triangular segment of a right-of-way with a paved surface at the west end of N Holladay Street where Thunderbird Road and Crosby Avenue meet.

A red triangle highlights the Thunderbird site where the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp will be moved to. (Google Maps)

“It’s one of the best spots we’ve seen in a few years,” R2DToo co-founder Trillium Shannon said at a press conference. “We needed to find something that was in close proximity, and so the city did work with the parameters that we put out there. We think it’s a very viable spot.”

The last-minute solution puts to rest concerns about the city evicting campers from the current R2DToo site.

Under a deal the city previously made to buy R2DToo’s current property, the camp needed to be vacated by April 7. But up until Thursday, the city hadn’t secured a new spot for R2DToo. The camp received an eviction notice last week, and many were concerned they would be left with nowhere to go come Friday.

Now that a relocation deal has been reached, Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office said it has granted a time extension for the camp to be vacated.

“Solutions around locating R2DToo have eluded the City for years, and it was unclear if this time would be any different. I want to thank the residents and representatives of R2DToo, Commissioners Fritz and Saltzman, and our respective staffs for sticking with it. Their dedication to collaboration and problem solving made all the difference.” – Mayor Ted Wheeler

R2DToo will be allowed to remain at the new Thunderbird site for up to 2 years. In the meantime, Wheeler’s office said it will continue its search for a permanent solution.

KOIN 6 News learned there’s a possibility the camp could be forced from the new site after 6 months. The property is technically an industrial location, meaning it is not zoned for residential use. But because Portland is currently experiencing a housing emergency, it’s OK for the camp to temporarily operate there. If the housing emergency designation isn’t extended in October, however, there could be trouble.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she’s confident the emergency will be extended.

An aerial view of the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp from the new Grove Hotel, March 15, 2017. (KOIN)
An aerial view of the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp from the new Grove Hotel, March 15, 2017. (KOIN)

“Based on the latest numbers of people living outside it seems we haven’t quite solved the problem of homelessness,” Fritz said. “I am confident that the council will vote to extend the housing emergency. It seems very unlikely that we’re going to solve all of our housing problems by October.”

In the meantime, R2DToo leaders think the Thunderbird site will be a good fit.

Although campers won’t be able to walk “around the corner or down the block for breakfast as they can now,” services will be just a short MAX ride away. A TriMet and Ride Connection program will supply campers with transit passes at no cost.

Shannon said some have raised concerns about the new site, but called them “the same kind of considerations you would make if you were moving to a new house.”

“People know that the railroad is right there, there was mention that it might be a little chilly with the wind coming off the river,” she said, adding that R2DToo campers will have a chance to look at the land and be involved in the planning process.

Shannon said people are excited, and that it’s “just the beginning.”

It appears the relocation deal could be a good move for the city, too.

“Now that we’re in a plot of land that is actually owned by the city, the city no longer has to pay rent,” Berk Nelson with Mayor Wheeler’s office told KOIN 6 News. “So now they can purchase [the land that R2DToo currently resides on] and develop that property, so it saves money and in addition makes the city money.”