'It looks very risky': Illegal tents along freeways becoming a growing problem

(KPTV Image)

An accident waiting to happen, that’s how many Portlanders describe an illegal campsite that’s smack in the middle of the freeway.

Two tents can be spotted on a small, concrete island under the Clay Street overpass on I-405. During rush hour, that slab of land is completely surrounded by a sea of moving cars.

“Gosh, that’s wild,” Daisy Shull said, who noticed the small camp during her walk.

The tents sit on top of a tunnel, directly below an overpass, and in the middle of the freeway.

“It looks very risky,” Shull added.

Although she’s alarmed, Shull told FOX 12 she’s not surprised.

“Ever since I’ve moved here the problem has only been getting worse,” Shull said.

Don Hamilton, with the Oregon Department of Transportation, agreed. Hamilton said illegal camps along the freeways are a growing problem in Portland.

“It’s terrible but at the same time they need a place to go,” Shull said.

In 2017 ODOT issued warnings to nearly 800 illegal campsites. The cost of cleaning those camps up for the past 5 years is roughly $3 million dollars.

“It’s scary, it is very scary,” said Rebecca Gerig, who once was homeless.

Gerig lives nearby the tents on I-405. She’s worried that someone will get hit.

“I was homeless,” Gerig said.

For three year, Gerig said she lived under the Hawthorne Bridge.

“It was beautiful in a sense because you could hear the train go by at night,” Gerig said.

She said her roof was a makeshift canopy.

“It kept the cold off. We had boards, cardboards and then blankets,” she said.

Now, Gerig has a real bed, but she still worries for her new neighbors.

“It wasn’t so long ago I was in a situation similar to that. I hope those people down are able to get safe clean and sober housing,” Gerig said.

ODOT said it posted a warning on the campsite on Wednesday, asking for the campers to clear out.

Copyright 2018 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.



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