Executive Director Andy Miller recently testified to Portland City Council about a proposal to authorize six managed camps on city-owned property for people experiencing homelessness, called safe rest villages. The villages are expected to include essential amenities such as bathrooms, laundry, showers and case management provided by Multnomah County. The emergency ordinance passed unanimously. Read the ordinance in full.
The full transcript of Andy Miller’s testimony follows on this page. You can also watch the recording on YouTube (testimony begins at the 2:01:30 mark).
Safe Rest Villages Ordinance Testimony
June 30, 2021
Mayor Wheeler and members of the Council – my name is Andy Miller and I am the Executive Director of Human Solutions. As you know, we provide a continuum of responses to houselessness, and our approach focuses on dignity, agency and choice for the people who our housing and economic systems fail.
We support the approach of today’s ordinance to lead with transparent priorities and compassion in how our public systems treat people sleeping outside. I share Commissioner Ryan’s hope that this moves us beyond our binary dialogue on harmful camp sweeps and towards a new, inclusive conversation to develop a dignified process to support people moving from problematic sleeping places to ones that provide what we all need – basic hygiene, safety, and a level of autonomy and security about where we sleep. And of course our houseless community must be at the table and centered in the development of the process and the new villages.
But our dialogue must move beyond short-term measures. I believe I speak for many of my peers when I say our public conversation – too often polarized around specific projects and temporary initiatives – needs a new frame – a shared theory of change, a broadly held narrative that our community can look to for answers about how and when we believe we will not only recognize housing as a basic human right – but REALIZE it. Steps like today’s ordinance must fit like puzzle pieces into a more detailed and hopeful road map for more than the next budget year or isolated resource. Our community needs a multi-year, multi-resourced, interjurisdictional approach to ending this crisis so they can see the steps along the way as working together toward our envisioned end.
As providers, we stand with you on reminding our community that our programs and housing models ARE working and exceeding many targets. But we need the courage to say more and to declare that our housing systems – with their racist past and profit centered underpinnings – continue to fail too many. Our community needs to understand how we are committed to reforming those systems. We need to confirm that we support approaches like Housing First – a worldwide proven best practice – and demonstrate that our affordable housing development systems are pivoting to invest more deeply and urgently in that model. We need to be clear how we will honor and invest in alternative models for housing born from the creativity and spirit of people surviving this crisis. I support this ordinance, but want to see it fit into a much larger, detailed, time-based roadmap of how we will make having a home the universal human right we believe it to be. Let’s have THAT conversation very soon.