City makes progress on Old Town cleanup; business owners say more still needs to be done

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 7:45 AM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - A concerted effort by the City of Portland to clean up Old Town Chinatown appears to be bearing fruit, but business owners say there is work left to be done to revitalize the troubled neighborhood.

While sidewalks and streets are largely free of the large tent encampments that persisted throughout the pandemic, drug dealing and use remains a visible problem.

“Everything that maybe was happening in a tent or maybe the shock was being absorbed by just more people being here, we were seeing it loud and clear,” said Jessie Burke, co-owner of the Society Hotel and Chair of the Old Town Community Association.

Burke said she’d like to see more enforcement actions by Portland police aimed at drug dealing and abuse, and more efforts to protect vulnerable people still living on the street.

“It can’t be so arduous that it never happens. It can’t be that Emily is still living in that doorway over there at 70 years old getting sexually assaulted twice a week,” said Burke.

Burke does acknowledge the city’s cleanup efforts, in partnership with the Old Town Community Association, have helped the neighborhood, with hundreds of tents removed since a 90-day “reset” effort was launched in March.

According to the city, more than 2,000 people were offered a ride to a shelter in that time.

Levi Martinez, who owns Orox Leather Company on Northwest 4th and Couch, said he’s optimistic that the city’s efforts in Old Town will have lasting effects.

“We’re starting to get on a good track. I just don’t think that we can quite see it yet,” said Martinez.

The Old Town Community Association continues in its efforts to revitalize the neighborhood, actively recruiting business to relocate to Old Town Chinatown with funding from Prosper Portland.