Clark plan produces progress – but many problems still exist in Old Town

From The Oregonian – November 28, 1987

There are fewer drunks lying on the street and the litter is picked up, everyone agrees, but beyond those points, there’s little consensus on how well Mayor Bud Clark‘s 12-point plan for the homeless is working.

Portland mayor Bud Clark in 1991

Portland mayor Bud Clark in 1991

Nearly two years after the plan was unveiled, social service providers in Old Town point to the progress that’s been made: public restrooms have been opened in the Estate and Beaver hotels, there’s a cleanup center in the Beaver Hotel where street people can shower and get fresh clothes, and most all the dumpsters have been removed from the streets, with the rest scheduled to be gone by Dec. 31.

A van from the Hooper Detox Center, run by Central City Concern, operates 16 hours a day, picking up people who are passed out on the street. Fortified wine sales have been banned. And Burnside Projects, which operates out of the Beaver Hotel, has opened a day shelter so people can get off the streets.

Police patrols have increased, too.

“Each and every thing by itself helps,” said Donald E. Clark, director of Central City Concern.

The social service agencies want to be “good neighbors” in the Burnside area, said Jean DeMaster, director of Burnside Projects.

And “there has been an improvement,” said Roger Shiels, an Old Town consultant who negotiated with Clark to create a truce between Burnside merchants and the social service providers clustered there.

“But there are still obviously a lot of problems,” he said.

While “the sanitation issues are better . . . the panhandling is worse and there’s more mentally afflicted people wandering the area,” said John Parsons, vice president of Pacific Square Corp. development company in Old Town.

“I was real encouraged when the drunk patrols came in . . . but where we used to have a lot of drunks around, now we have a lot of mentally afflicted,” Parsons said.

Parsons, like Shiels, would like to see the social service providers such as Central City Concern and Burnside Projects booted out of Old Town, the Skid Row area of town that has become increasingly gentrified in the past decade or so as boutiques and specialty restaurants have moved in.

“The facilities (for the homeless) are stationary, the population is mobile. The people will follow the facilities,” said Parsons, who suggested moving the agencies that serve the homeless to the Albina area in North and Northeast Portland.

Carl Murrill, who owns the tanning studio in Paradise Hair Design at 211 N.W. Couch St., said he was planning to move his business even though he believes the area “does look cleaner.”

“It’s hard to get people to work down here — they can’t get their clients to come to this part of town,” Murrill said of his pending move.

No matter how much cleanup takes place, though, there will continue to be a rift between businesses and social service providers in the area, said Creag Hayes, owner of the Ciclo Sport Shop.

“I would like to be positive about the 12-point plan but (it’s) institutionalizing the issue,” Hayes said. “They’re maintaining permanent institutional programs in the downtown retail core and . . . so long as that’s the policy, we’re going to have these problems.”

The pending move into the area of Burnside Community Council, now located on the east end of the Burnside Bridge, has business people in Old Town “holding their breath,” Shiels said.

The council, which operates Baloney Joe’s shelter, has announced the purchase of a building at the corner of Northwest Eighth Avenue and Flanders Street.

“Everyone’s hoping they’ll reconsider,” he added.

As for the mayor’s 12-point plan, Shiels said, “I can’t think of any other way to address the problem. It’s not an easy thing . . . I don’t have any better ideas.”