Commissioner Smith’s statement on Wapato

April 12, 2018
Updated April 13, 2018

Commissioner Loretta Smith
Commissioner Loretta Smith

Today the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners took a vote to approve the sale of the Wapato facility.

My outrage is two part.

First, that today my colleagues seem to set the dangerous precedent that any bidder at any time can successfully be awarded a winning bid based not on their original proposal, but rather on a secondary offer presented at the eleventh hour. I have real concern that this body may have just voted to give the purchaser of Wapato a sole source contract, which I fear could be in breech of state procurement rules..

Second, and no less serious, is that I find it inconceivable that we will continue to allow our most vulnerable to sleep in buildings with roofs that are caving in and are infested with rats, but that we will not consider Wapato as a temporary shelter.

In my remarks during the public hearing earlier today, in a press conference held last week, in the Oregonian’s editorial pages on Sunday the 1st of April, and going back as far as 2014, I have called on the Board to open the Wapato campus as a short-term, emergency homeless shelter and service center.

Our community is facing a housing crisis like we’ve never seen before. At last count there were 4,177 of our neighbors living without permanent shelter - with another 1,668 who are unsheltered.

And those numbers do not reflect our neighbors who live in their cars or camp in the woods or couch surf with friend and relatives.

The need in our community is urgent.

Opening Wapato for the short-term would have allowed us to step back from the crisis and develop a long-term, permanent, supportive housing plan in concert with the community.

But, I will not forget our 88 houseless neighbors who died on our streets last year. And I will not turn my back on the taxpayers of this county.

And while this particular opportunity now appears to be off the table, I pledge to continue to work with anyone in the public or private sphere who is willing to think outside the box as we work together to address our homeless crisis.