Portland Street Response pilot design

A lot has happened since Street Roots put forward the Portland Street Response plan, for non-police first responders to address street crises, in our March 15 issue. 

Many of you – Street Roots readers, Street Roots vendors – wrote letters to Council, turned out at budget hearings and endorsed the plan at portlandstreetresponse.org (where you still can add your voice). I’ve been invited into conversations with neighborhood associations and faith communities and businesses and neighborhood organizations. The enthusiasm for a new, constructive system is thorough-going in this city. 

And City Council showed they heard all your voices, allotting $500,000 toward developing a Portland Street Response pilot in the budget that began July 1. 

Hardesty’s staff, in collaboration with Mayor Ted Wheeler’s staff, is charged with moving the pilot design process forward and bringing a plan to Council by this November.

Street Roots is actively advocating first and foremost for unhoused people to have a voice in this design process. (read more)

Tips for writing letters in support of Portland Street Response

  • State your name and your organization (or your neighborhood);
  • If relevant, share a little bit about your organization and your mission. Who do you serve? Or perhaps this is a time to write from the perspective of your neighborhood.

  • Why does the issue of non-police first response matter to you?
    -Is it because of the high arrests of unhoused people?
    -How legal entanglements drive people deeper into poverty, including creating barriers to housing and employment?
    -How the 911 system is bogged down with calls about non-criminal matters, including a so-called unwanted person call every 15 minutes?
    -How, as the Portland Police Bureau’s Strategic Insights Report showed, the public overwhelmingly distrusts police and is beleaguered by slow response time? 

  • Describe how the city needs to develop a Portland Street Response, a new system of first responders. Here are some possible areas to emphasize:
    – The plan proposes six teams of medics and peer support specialists with training in de-escalation who can respond with compassion to 911 calls about people struggling with homelessness and behavioral health crises. 
    -Not every crisis is a crime. We need to match the right first responder to the crisis.
    -The Portland Street Response is based on the 30-year-old CAHOOTS model in Eugene.
    -Based on discussions with Bureau of Emergency Communications, Street Roots estimates that six 24-hour-teams-of-two (a medic and a peer support specialist crisis worker) could meet our demand.
    -Portland Street Response needs to be a big effort. It’s only if people all across the city can recognize it can it be seen as an actual alternative.
    -We need to make this easy for residents of the city to feel the impact.
    -The teams must be highly trained in crisis response, and CAHOOTS can help with this training.

  • Do you have a personal story that matters to this issue?

  • Thank the Mayor and Commissioners for budgeting the pilot, and let them know this needs to be a city priority for full funding. 

  • Thank the Mayor and Commissioners for their time.