Portland and Denver Take Different Approaches To Homeless Camping

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Photo: Portland Homelessness
Demonstrator Eve Sanford sleeps on the sidewalk during an all-night protest against current city camping and homelessness policies Monday, July 2, 2012, outside the City Hall, in Portland, Ore.

It's been just over a month since Denver cleared an encampment of homeless people near Coors Field. Since then, it has continued to enforce laws against urban camping citywide.

Portland, Oregon has gone a different route. Last February, Portland Mayor Chris Hales announced new rules that allow people to sleep and set up tents in certain places inside the city. He hopes to approve 10 encampments for the homeless as a part of the plan.

Josh Alpert, the mayor's chief of staff, has spearheaded the effort. He joined Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner to explain why he thinks the best way to end homelessness is to allow it in certain places.

On Portland's new urban camping policy:

"The whole premise of creating this new policy was to give people sleeping on the streets as many options as we could about where they could go to sleep. The idea being that if someone said no to all those options, that was an opportunity for us to dig a little bit deeper and find why that person was so service resistant."

On the plan for established camps for homeless people:

"The new system will be...largely self-organized on land the city approves. And we are scouring the city looking for those kinds of lands and having a management function in those camps. So they are essentially going to operate like outdoor shelters...We've learned that having 25 to 30 people is really the maximum for any particular site."

On a response to businesses that oppose the camping plan:

"I think on a higher lever we agree that camping, people being outside, is really unacceptable. Our point back the Business Association and other is always, 'We get that, but it's a simple math problem right now. We have about 2,000 people sleeping outside on any given night and we don't have 2,000 bed spaces indoors for them to go, so what should we do today?' "