Neighbors ask City Council to do more about homelessness in Hawt - KPTV - FOX 12

Neighbors ask City Council to do more about homelessness in Hawthorne

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Neighbor and business owners of the Hawthorne district packed the Portland City Council chambers Wednesday, demanding leaders address a growing homeless problem.

About 40 people attended the meeting and several testified before commissioners on topics of livability issues.

One woman who owns a local business described a recent encounter where she said a group of several homeless people targeted her, saying they would follow her home and rape her among other violent messages.

Her frustrations were echoed by others who said the district has experienced a sharp increase in crime, garbage and unsavory behavior as the result of a growing number of homeless in the area.

“People don’t want to go out of their houses,” neighbor John Light said. “They don’t want to shop on the streets. They don’t want to bring their kids to Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream.”

Neighbors and shopkeepers are particularly concerned by violence, such as an incident confirmed by the Portland Police Bureau. Officials said a homeless man pulled a knife on an employee of 3 Doors Down Café after that employee asked him to leave the restaurant.

Business owner Sarah Balzer said she and others showed up to the City Council meeting to not only ask for the mayor’s support but also for immediate action.

“It has gotten substantially worse in the past two years, and substantially worse this year,” Balzer said. “(former) Mayor Charlie Hales did give us walking patrol in 2014 which was extremely effective. Everybody loved it, including the police, which was fantastic, and it was cut in 2015. We’ve seen a slow decline and it’s come to a head again and we feel like we need to ask for help.” 

The group is asking Mayor Ted Wheeler to put that police patrol back in place, and they would also like to see more shelters added to the area as well as a robust community outreach program.

Responding to the testimony, Wheeler told the residents that he agreed with them. He said his newly passed budget, which he said had more funding for the homeless and more rangers patrolling parks, among other programs, will help address the issues with homeless and livability in the area.

“We will work with you on these issues, but there is no quick, easy solution,” Wheeler warned, asking for the group’s patience.

Several residents and business owners told FOX 12 that they were encouraged by Wheeler’s words and now hope his message will translate into real change.

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