Neighbors skeptical of new Springwater Trail homelessness plan - KPTV - FOX 12

Neighbors skeptical of new Springwater Trail homelessness plan

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It will be Portland's biggest homeless camp eviction in years. Mayor Charlie Hales announced Friday that hundreds will have to leave camps along the Springwater Corridor trail in preparation of a massive cleanup dealing with safety and environmental hazards. 

The move comes after reports of violence and fires have escalated along the trail, and recent public outcry during a protest of Hale’s homeless camping policies organized by Lents neighborhood residents.

Friday afternoon officers visited campers along the trail, telling them they have two weeks to get out, and taking down names and birthdates.

Hales estimates more than 400 people live along the trail, with big groups near the Lents and Brentwood-Darlington neighborhoods in the southeast area of the city. 

It is lack of adequate services and compassion that have allowed homeless populations to swell throughout the trail, according to Hales who called it a “tipping point” with public safety and environmental hazards forcing the decision to kick people out.

"We have to restore the Springwater Corridor into it’s purpose,” he said.

Fox 12 spoke with one homeless woman who only wanted to be referred to by her first name, Lynette. 

For her, the news of the forced move is nothing new or surprising. 

“They kicked us out a few months ago,” Lynette said. “How does that make me feel? It makes me feel bad because we don’t have a place to find to go.” 

Area neighbors aren’t quite haling the mayor a hero either, saying the news leaves them with the same question.

“Where are they going?” asked Robert Schultz of the Lent’s Neighborhood Association. “We haven’t been part of the conversation. [The city] put these people here, directed these people here, allowed these people to stay here, and they have’t consulted these people or us as a community.”

Hales said he understands the homeless will have to go somewhere and admits he doesn’t have a big enough solution to relocate them immediately. 

“We’re still going to be dealing with people camping around the city in lots of other places until we have enough shelter beds,” Hales said.

Those beds are coming, said Hales, specifically mentioning a new shelter that will open this month with a couple hundred beds in the Multnomah County Sheriff’s former Hansen building. 

Hales said the city is also investing a half billion dollars in affordable housing and future shelters. 

"That’s going to take some time, and in the meantime they are going to be people yelling at me from both sides, that goes with the job of being mayor,” Hales said.

Monday, social workers will visit the camps to reach out to the homeless and connect them with any services they might qualify for. 

On July 29, the area will formally be posted with notices about the coming cleanup and work crews will begin August 1 with targeted focus in the Lents and Brentwood-Darlington portions of the trail.

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