The Mid-county Memo is your newspaper. We want to hear from you. Discuss an important issue, respond to a request for comment or address a concern you want to call to the attention of the community. Letters to the editor will always be edited for space, style, grammar and issues of clarity. Please include your full name and identify the neighborhood in which you reside. We prefer e-mailed letters to the editor sent to Darlene Vinson at Please put “Letter to the editor” in the subject line. You may also mail your letter to 3510 N.E. 134th Ave., Portland, OR 97230. Deadline for the January issue is Friday, Dec. 15. 

Homeless problems grow
To the Editor: 
Long advocated by Chair [Deborah] Kafoury, Multnomah County commissioners voted 4-1 on Nov. 9 to sell the never-used Wapato Jail. Built at a cost of $58 million in 2005, Wapato sold for $10.8 million. With the sale, Kafoury threw away $47.2 million hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

The $10.8 million was slated toward “Supportive Housing” in 2028. Ten years! Over 4,000 homeless people are on the streets now! Last winter four people froze to death in Portland, and one woman gave stillborn birth under an I-205 overpass, and Wapato sat empty. Life on the streets is unhealthy and dangerous, and city/county efforts are inadequate.

During the past two years at meetings and public testimony, many suggested the county develop an expanded program using the 525-bed Wapato as a central intake station: evaluate, triage and temporarily shelter individuals while seeking appropriate treatment and housing. We now learn homeless advocates will meet to brainstorm the possibility of a comprehensive program at Wapato [that works to] end the cycle of homelessness.

At a recent crime prevention forum, homeless issues were paramount. Two Portland policemen and a deputy sheriff related the frustration they experience when confronting vagrancy and property crime by the homeless. Jailing them is often halted due to lack of jail space. Inverness and the Justice Center, with a total 1,713 beds, are not enough. Multnomah County commissioners, are you aware of this?

Shocking to Mayor Wheeler was Columbia Sportswear’s announcement it would move its headquarters from downtown if Portland can’t control homeless criminals. Wake up, city and county!

Harriett Heisey
Wilkes community resident

Wapato Jail sells for $10 million 
To the Editor:
The city of Portland [sic] spent nearly $60 million dollars to build the Wapato building, and, after 13 years, it had a return of $10 million dollars. Statements that Wapato could not be used for addressing homelessness because “it did not have the political support” or “did not have the proper zoning” were common statements made by officials. Considering that the city [sic] has the power to address both politics and zoning issues at will on practically any city project, I have come to the conclusion that the sale of Wapato was already in negotiations and, hence, not really considered for addressing the homeless situation in Portland.

It reminds me of a businessman that I worked for in New York in the 1990s. He borrowed $30 million dollars from a bank to complete a housing project, but by the time the project was completed, there was a recession and he was unable to pay back the loan. As a result, no bank would loan to him, and he lost his business. What happened to the people who made the Wapato decision 13 years ago? We continue to see a growth of the homeless population in our area as the new policies and enforcements push more and more of this population from downtown Portland.

Shahab Nahvi
Wilkes community resident