What to expect from the managed homeless camp

I see that Urban Alchemy, the California outfit that's going to run the managed campsite in inner Southeast Portland, is also on the list of potential contractors to help clean up the apparent mismanagement at the Deadly Deborah Day Spa downtown. All of a sudden, the local government seems to be putting a lot of eggs in that basket.

Meanwhile, the neighbors of the designated campsite are expressing their misgivings about the new facility, the most significant concern being that they wouldn't trust the City Hall bureaucrats as far as they could throw them. Those are some smart neighbors.

Anyway, what can we expect from the camp? The nonprofit is going to spend upwards of $34,000 of tax dollars per camper every year, plus food costs, startup costs, and construction costs. 

The city did not say how much the site will cost to build and operate, though in its bid for the project, Urban Alchemy said it would cost $5.1 million a year to operate a 150-person site and an additional $400,000 for startup costs. That estimate did not include the cost of meals, utilities or the construction of the site, which the city has committed to cover, according to city documents.

And what will we get in return? Upwards of a hundred tents off the streets, at least until reinforcements arrive from all corners of the country. But as for getting people out of tents and into apartments, probably not much will happen.

Urban Alchemy hasn’t been particularly successful at helping people transition to permanent housing at other sites. As of Feb, 6, fewer than 2% of people – five out of 261 – served at the Los Angeles tent site run by Urban Alchemy had transitioned to permanent housing, while 11 had moved to different shelters, seven had been reunited with family, three had moved to short-term housing, 115 had returned to the street and 35 had left to unknown places, according to data provided by the nonprofit.

And you can expect a lot of excuses for any dismal results. Already the Urban Alchemy guys sound like they're making them

They run sites like this in California and Texas — and soon in Portland.

“We have been really great at getting residents to transition from Safe Sleeps and other interim housing interventions into permanent housing,” Tyler said.

“The big question to the mayor,” Bramley said, “was are there going to be guaranteed affordable units available for these individuals at the end of the 3-year period? He said 'No, I can’t guarantee that.'”

I think managed camps are an important part of a much broader solution, and this facility is long, long overdue. But frankly, I don't expect it to do all that much to clean things up. It's a drop in the bucket.


  1. A lot of new salaries at the government feeding trough that will never go away.

  2. At that price, you should be able to do a heck of a lot more than a campsite. That's outrageous!

  3. And so the homeless industrial complex continues….

  4. For the folks wondering how a California outfit got this gig, the short answer is no one else applied.

  5. Have we forgotten how the Oregon Health Plan has drawn thousands of physically and mentally ill people to the state?

  6. In Portland there is no such thing as a bad idea. Urban Alchemy my ass this is more like Urban Hindenberg. "Oh THE HUMANITY!"

  7. To paraphrase a line in a famous movie. If you feed them, they will come.

  8. If it gets 100 tent squatters off the streets, it works for me. At this point, the cost is an afterthought. We burn through literally hundreds of millions of tax dollars every year in Portland chasinng after the "homeless" problem. So far there is next to nothing to show for all that dough. At least for this $10 million a year or so you get a managed camp. Better than nothing.

  9. You are pretty cynical so if you are feeling hopeful about this perhaps there is something there but I will remain cautiously optimistic.

    1. I'm still not clear on why any of this is up to me to pay for? I'd like to see these idiots create a system that provides shelter, food, etc. but only to individuals who actually clean up and go find some kind of job... anything. Can't just sit on your ass all day smoking crack and opening paychecks.

  10. 36000/12=3000/mo. For a return of about 5 people getting out of homelessness.

    That's way more than it would cost just to rent them homes on the market. Where someone would 100% get out of homelessness.

    Anyone falling for this is a sucker.


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