City of Portland offers another day of warnings for illegal home - KPTV - FOX 12

City of Portland offers another day of warnings for illegal homeless camp in natural area

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Portland city officials Thursday pushed back a scheduled sweep of a homeless camp off Northeast Airport Way.

The Parks and Recreation Department, along with contracted workers, were expected to remove tents and structures from the Big Four Corners Natural Area.

Instead, park rangers issued warnings and exclusions to some of the roughly dozen campers that claimed a swath of the wooded area over the weekend.

The group calls the camp ‘Village of Hope,” and Robert Equino is one of them.

“I love the people -- the people involved in this are very passionate about it,” Equino said of the camp’s members. “As a group, we’re really tight, and it’s fun.”

Equino said he’s been homeless on and off for more than 20 years. He considers himself an advocate for other homeless and said he could likely find shelter but prefers to be out on the streets so he can help others.

“The shelters seem to be more – they’re strict,” Equino said. “A lot of them don’t have couples allowed so they split up people that have been together forever.”

Still, shelters were the main theme from park rangers, who held a roughly 15-minute meeting inside the group’s largest tent, advising campers it was illegal for them to remain and that social workers were ready to get them paired with appropriate services.

City officials had already posted flyers ordering the camp to disband and said outreach groups offering social services had visited the site several times, only to be rebuffed.

According to the city, the area is ecologically sensitive and thousands of dollars have been spent to restore natural habitat in the area. Protecting water quality is important, officials said.

Park officials said they have issued 3 exclusions and 8 warnings so far.

Protesters who visited the camp Thursday morning wanted to show support for the homeless. About a dozen people held up signs, chanted and demanded the city to do better.

“When people are downtown on the sidewalks, the businesses complain, and then when people are in the neighborhoods, the neighbors complain,” one man said, adding “I feel like I’m just one rent payment away from being out here.”

City leaders, including Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz, said they are committed to helping folks get into shelters as well as finding creative, alternative solutions.

In a statement, Fritz said although the city has a long way to, progress has been made and pointed to the more than $52 million the city and county have dedicated to helping with homeless issues, low-income housing and other social and health services.

City officials said they will not release when the camp will be swept, citing tactical reasons.

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