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City hopes to move R2DT camp into leased warehouse

by: KOIN NEWS 6 - Mayor Charlie Hales is proposing this warehouse as the new location of the R2D2 homeless camp.A new indoor location for the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp is close to being finalized.

The camp that has been in a privately owned lot at Northwest Fourth Avenue and Burnside Street since October 2011 could move to a warehouse on Northwest Fourth Avenue and Hoyt Street if a deal is struck.

The warehouse is owned by a trust group in Seattle that wants to sell the building. The trust has agreed to hold off for 15 months and lease it to the city starting Jan. 1.

After 15 months, the owners would put the building back on the market.

The only holdup is for Right 2 Dream Too leaders to accept the offer. Right 2 Dream's Ibrahim Mubarak doesn't think the warehouse will work, if the longest the homeless group can stay there is 15 months.

"Spending all that money, getting it fixed up, and then after a year, say 'OK, go?' " Mubarak says. "Then we're back to day one."

The campers would be able to use the ground floor of the vacant building.

"Getting people who are unhoused inside, in Portland, in the winter, is a good idea," says Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

But it's an expensive idea. Owners of the property want $10,000 a month in rent. Plus, to stay up to code, the warehouse would have to be heated -- with bathrooms, showers and fire sprinklers added.

The upgrades and rent could cost up to $250,000 in taxpayer money. Where would that money come from?

"That's not clear," says City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who has been negotiating with Right 2 Dream Too on a new location outside Old Town, but was not part of the mayor's announcement Wednesday. "If you're going to invest that amount of public money in a structure for just a year, it doesn't make any sense. It doesn't seem fiscally responsible."

But Hales backs up his plan: "I think this warehouse is, again, a good short-term solution."

The warehouse was one of several options offered by a Pearl District group hoping to keep the city from allowing the Right 2 Dream Too camp to set up under the west end of the Broadway Bridge. But, if Right 2 Dream Too rejects the warehouse site, the homeless camp could still end up in the Pearl District.

"Our urging to Right 2 Dream is take this offer," Hales says. "It's been made in good faith, both by the community and by City Hall -- who genuinely want to help."

All parties have two weeks to finalize the offer. If no agreement is made, the warehouse is expected to be put up for sale.