California group to run first Portland mass campsite; local nonprofits want to know why

Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 5:14 PM PST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Portland mayor Ted Wheeler said at a Thursday news conference that he chose a California organization to operate the the sanctioned camp sites he is trying to set up because they had experience managing outdoor shelters.

Wheeler said the city selected Urban Alchemy to run the city’s first southeast Portland site after a long search, and will possibly chose them to operate others as well.

According to the Urban Alchemy’s website, it was founded in 2018 and operates shelters and safe campsites in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.

Urban Alchemy staff joined the mayor on Thursday and said they are eager to get started.

RELATED: Portland mayor reveals potential location for first of 6 new homeless shelters

“It’s an opportunity to help people, to create a transition space to help people stabilize and decompress from the hyper-vigilant state they feel on the street,” said staff member Ian Clark-Johnson.

Wheeler says he and other city commissioners personally visited Los Angeles and San Francisco to take a look at the sites operated by Urban Alchemy, and felt they were most qualified to come to Portland.

Staff will help those staying in the sites get connected to local services to move out of homelessness, as well as patrol the area 16 hours every day for safety, and be available 24/7 should there be any problems.

“We want this to feel unlike an institution, a big part of that is establishing trust, establishing autonomy, but also through conversation and patience and leveraging community” said Clark-Johnson. “We’re able to negotiate those things successfully.”

SEE ALSO: Suspects in NE Portland murder were in a shootout with Wilsonville cops days later

But the executive director of Blanchet House, a nonprofit providing meals and other services every day in Old Town to those on the streets, says he and other nonprofit directors are confused as to why an outside group is stepping in.

“I’m not sure why we’re in a position of outsourcing this to an organization that doesn’t really know our community,” said Scott Kerman. “We have a lot of questions about these camps, and about the expense and what we’re going to get from these camps.”

More on the city’s plans can be found here.