Right 2 Dream Too, the homeless way station at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Burnside, will square off with city attorneys next week for perhaps the final round in their 20-month standoff. On July 11, a motion to dismiss by the city will be considered in circuit court, and if granted, could signal another legal dead-end for R2DToo, which is trying to find a more permanent site for people experiencing homelessness.
But Right 2 Dream Too isn’t waiting for any favors from the city, which hasn’t budged on its course to fine the controversial camp out of existence.
Organizers with R2DToo are in negotiations with Central City Concern about possibly occupying CCC’s Medford Building at Glisan Street and Fifth Avenue in Old Town. The building had housed Transition Projects Inc., which relocated to the Bud Clark Commons in 2011. Transition Projects used the Medford Building as temporary housing and support services for people experiencing homelessness.
Ibrahim Mubarak, the spokesman for the nonprofit R2DToo, said today that an “undisclosed group” has made an offer on the building on
R2DToo’s behalf. However, Mubarak declined to say anything more on the matter because the terms and conditions have yet to be decided. It is one of several sites the group is considering for a new home, according to Mubarak.
“We have been and continue to look for alternative locations that meet the needs of that population, which include transportation and having access to social services,” says R2DToo attorney Mark Kramer.
Kramer and Mubarak are scheduled to meet with City Commissioner Amanda Fritz Tuesday morning to talk about the homeless group’s future. In the recent bureau assignments from Mayor Charlie Hales, Fritz assumed authority over the Bureau of Development Services which is the agency fining R2DToo.
“I hope that she will understand our position and stop and waive the fines and negotiate something different with us,” Mubarak said.
Mubarak says any decision on relocating R2DToo would be made by the nonprofit’s seven-member board of directors.
The Medford Building is not entirely empty. The first floor houses the VOA Treatment Center along with an expanse of space formerly used as winger shelter with a capacity for 95. The upper floors are single-residency apartments, nearly all occupied. R2DToo regularly shelters about 60 people at night, with that number swelling to 90 to 100 during the winter, Mubarak says.
If a deal is reached, it would the biggest breakthrough to date for the camp that has battled the city and local business pressures to continue operating.
Since October 2011, R2DToo has leased the property from owners Michael Wright and Daniel Cossette for $1 a year. In recent months, a “for sale” sign has been prominently displayed on the lot. In December, the organization has sued the city seeking to suspend the citation process that has levied more than $21,700 in fines on the camp for code violations. The fine goes up $1,500 every month, according to Kramer. While the fines technically fall on the property owners’ responsibility, they are directed at R2DToo.
The city has fined the site under two code violations. The first being that the fence around the property – constructed from used doors – exceeded the 6-foot limit, a situation that was recently corrected. The second violation comes because the city categorizes R2DToo as a recreational campground, subject to certain city requirements. The organization maintains this is an emergency shelter operation for people experiencing homelessness, and is allowed under state statute.
The city has moved to have the case dismissed on technical grounds, and if the circuit court judge grants the city’s motion, the case could simply die for lack of money or administrative options to move forward.
Kramer, who is donating his time to the case as a member of the National Lawyers Guild, said that if the case dies, the group could appeal or try for an administrative hearing, although deadlines have passed and appeals are costly. But Kramer stays optimistic.
“Things can happen,” Kramer says. “There could be some type of waiver. Where there’s a will there’s a way.”