Activists block homeless camp clean-ups at every step

By Taxpayers Association of Oregon Foundation,

Last March a dozen activists physically blocked the City from cleaning up dangerous and unsafe homeless encampments.  Others have fought to make trespassing a legal right.

Portland city officials have found attempts to clear homeless camps stymied on several fronts recently—a lawsuit filed by four homeless people and advocates from Stop the Sweep refusing to allow clearing of a camp near Laurelhurst Park.

Not only that, residents of homes near the park blame city officials for failing to acknowledge the trauma and fear they’ve suffered because of break-ins and threats by mentally ill homeless people.

Four homeless people filed a class-action lawsuit against the city to prevent camp sweeps, asking a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge to prevent the city from enforcing new guidelines that describe what warrants sweeping homeless camps—at least eight structures, untreated sewage, biohazardous waste, verified reports of criminal behavior, and blocking public sidewalks, bus stations, building entrances or walking paths. The plaintiffs claimed that, during past sweeps, city contractors discarded of their personal belongings rather than keeping them available for retrieval within 30 days. They say the city isn’t following state law regarding that property.

Representatives for Portland’s five city commissioners met with advocates and homeless people living on streets near Laurelhurst Park, which the city had cleared six months earlier. Advocates want the city to organize outdoor camps for the homeless.

But neighbors in the Southeast Portland neighborhood say they’ve experienced threats, thefts, and attempted burglaries. TJ Browning, safety chair of the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association, noted that a child entered his front yard only to have a mentally ill woman running across the park toward him, screaming, “I’m going to kill you!”