Two schools in Portland, Oregon have withdrawn support for a nearby homeless village after it was revealed the city didn't meet any of their proposed minimum safety requirements, including criminal background checks.
Nearby is the International School of Portland, a private multilingual pre-k through elementary school, and Bridges Middle School, which serves students with special learning needs.
"As you know, since the beginning, we have publicly and privately supported the Safe Rest Villages, and this new approach to help the houseless. We had been looking forward to welcoming the village participants and collaborating with the city to make the 2300 SW Naito village a success for all stakeholders," wrote ISP Head of School Bodo Heiliger and BMS Principle Beven Byrnes.
"From the day the site was announced, the schools have been clear that we are all in support of the village as long as certain minimum expectations are met," they continued.
But after "months of meetings with the City SRV ream" they received very few answers, and "our Stakeholder Group has been growing increasingly less confident of the City’s plans for the CSV/Safe Rest Village."
"We therefore reached out to other neighborhood associations, and discovered that they shared our sentiment. Together, fourteen neighborhood and community organizations identified three items to include in all SRV Good Neighbor Agreements (GNA)s. We then reached out to City and County leadership with these collective requests," the letter stated.
The requests included: a strict enforcement of laws for SRVs located within 500 ft of school grounds; a requirement for background checks "or those with felony convictions of violent crimes against a person, sex crimes, and property crimes within past seven years;" a 1000 ft buffer zone where camping is not allowed; trash cannot accumulate; no drug dealing or other criminal activities; and the establishment of SRV advisory boards.
"Yesterday, we were finally able to jointly meet with the City and County officials. Unfortunately, we can now confirm that none of our requests have been met, the most concerning of which is our request for the requirement of felony background checks for participants," the letter read, noting that the city had initially said there would be background checks.
"Given this denial of our requests, we can no longer support the Safe Rest Villages because of safety and security concerns. This is with a very heavy heart, as we truly hoped to be able to welcome the villagers with open arms," they wrote.
"After months of providing very few answers to our requested information, the City recently announced that the participants are scheduled to move in next week. We are now turning to our community of parents, teachers, community leaders, and neighborhood associations to join together in a show of disapproval," the letter said.
"Due to the lack of collaboration and support from government officials that we have experienced over the last few months, we can no longer endorse their plans for the Naito Parkway village that will be situated within 75 ft of our two schools. We hope that you will join us in voicing your concerns to City and County leadership," it later added.
The notice to ISP and BMS community members included a suggested letter for concerned individuals to send to a list of city officials expressing their concern about the Safe Rest Village location.
It noted the two schools host around 600 students from the ages of 3-13, and that those at Bridges Middle School "have multiple learning differences/disabilities and have experienced traumatic rejection, isolation and bullying in their previous school settings."
"These 600 students are some of the most vulnerable human beings in the city."
According to the City of Portland, the site will house approximately 40 people.
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