• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

The cleaning of the homeless camp in the old town is underway

ByDebra J. Aguilar

May 17, 2022

Portland’s Impact Reduction Program is cleaning up and removing dozens of homeless sites in Old Town.

PORTLAND, Ore — It’s been about a month since the city unveiled its 90-day reset plan to “repair, rebuild and reopen the Old Town Corridor.” The city does this primarily through cleanups and homeless camp relocations. Through this process, dozens of people lose their possessions and find themselves looking for the next corner to call home.

“I was the only tent there. There was nothing posted that indicated it was going to be swept away,” said Douglas Marcks, who sat at a picnic table on Tuesday morning.

Marcks has lived on the streets for about 10 years. On Monday evening, the city withdrew its camp.

“I was pretty furious actually,” Marcks said. Most of his belongings were also taken away.

“All my clothes other than what’s on my back, all my electronics except what’s in my backpack, all gone – that’s several hundred dollars worth of stuff,” a- he declared.

RELATED: Queer Affinity Safe Rest Village Opens on Southwest Naito

“I honestly think that’s rude,” added Danny Junior who also lives in Old Town. He saw the city remove his friend’s camp earlier this week. “It’s hard, you know, to watch someone have pretty much everything they own taken away from them.”

“It’s been a very loud and tumultuous time the past two weeks,” Kaia Sand said. She runs Street Roots, a homeless advocacy group and newspaper.

She described seeing camps being cleared outside her office window.

“We saw all these flashing lights and screaming,” Sand said.

Earlier this month, the city’s Impact Mitigation Program cleaned up two sites and removed 19 others in the Old Town, and another 25 sites in the neighborhood are set to be removed.

“I’m just scared of how this is so unsettling for people,” Sand said.

Over the past three days, the city said it has helped 23 people affected by cleanups in the Old City find shelter beds.

“They survive. The man who was camping here, he moved around the corner and then he was swept away again,” Sand said.

RELATED: Portland Settles Lawsuit, Changes Rules for Homeless Sweeps

“The streets have not been safe — not safe for the people who live there, not safe for pedestrians,” said Carrie Saum, business navigator for the Old Town Business Association. She works to attract new businesses to the area, which she says is hard to do when the streets are filled with homeless camps.

However, this past weekend, she saw a change.

“The streets were very clean, they were safe and what we hear from business owners and people who love the neighborhood but didn’t feel safe, their experience this weekend was night and day,” said Saum said. “Everyone was delighted with how different it was here.

For people like Marcks who choose not to be in the proposed shelters, the search for a new, safe place to sleep continues.

“That’s what happens, it’s like people just go through more trauma, more stress, have a new place to survive, and then it just goes on,” Sand said.

The city is working to connect with each person displaced by these cleanups. They have set aside about 65 shelter beds for them and are offering free rides to the shelter.

Here are the steps the city told KGW people to recover their lost belongings during the cleanups:

  • Goods recovered from campgrounds will be stored by a City contractor for at least 30 days. Goods left for more than 30 days will be destroyed or donated.
  • To arrange pickup, please call 503-387-1336 with date, location, and description of items picked up Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • No ID or name is required to obtain removed goods, unless obtaining prescription drugs, personal ID or credit cards (in which case name is required).
  • There are no fees, fines, tickets or citations for the recovery of personal property and the City does not perform warrant or ICE reference checks in connection with the recovery of personal property.
  • If you are unable to collect your belongings within 30 days, please call the number to find an extension.