This is a joint statement from PROTEC17 members working at Portland Street Response:
“As Portland Street Response employees, our job includes meeting people where they are, advocating for our clients, and reducing barriers to services. We regularly receive requests for tents and tarps and know firsthand that they are not just life-saving resources — they maintain the safety, privacy, and dignity of our clients, especially during times when shelters are full or not accessible to everyone, which, unfortunately, is often. The recent ban by Commissioner Rene Gonzalez that prohibits the distribution of tents and tarps to the unhoused community is not only inhumane, it is dangerous.
During last month’s severe weather events, we lost a client to hypothermia. To see the very real impact of this ban in real time has left us devastated and extremely disheartened. What Commissioner Gonzalez claims as a temporary ban cruelly went into effect during one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record, with no input from us — the people who do this work. This policy has put our clients at risk, increased the stress on our workload, and does nothing to solve Gonzalez’s proclaimed issue of fires at campsites, which he openly admitted.
The topic of how to best help the unhoused population is complex and will not be solved overnight. It requires building relationships and trust with our neighbors who have been historically marginalized and disenfranchised, and listening to their lived experiences to find a solution. It also requires increased access to social services — including rehab, detox, and supportive housing, all of which are extremely limited in the Portland metro area.
Our unhoused neighbors are struggling to survive. Therefore, we, as Portland Street Response employees, must not be prohibited from providing simple resources – like tents and tarps – that could literally save someone’s life.”