Neighbors blame Wheeler for lack of response to homeless

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is responding to critics upset with how police are reportedly handling their calls about the homeless.

Wheeler was the guest at Thursday night’s Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association meeting, where a wide range of tops were covered. The concern with criminal behavior from homeless campers took the spotlight.

“I know people that are homeless and they’re not criminals, so my concern isn’t the person’s housing status, my concern is their behavior,” SE Portland resident Evelyn Macpherson said. 

Macpherson said she takes walks almost every night, filling up a bin with needles.

“My daughter actually picked up two of them,” she said. 

She knows the housing crisis is complex, so she took her concerns to Wheeler.

“They’re drinking in the park, there’s theft,” she said. 

She said when she calls the police on problem activity, officers are telling her their hand are tied and that it’s Wheeler’s doing. 

“Let me be crystal clear — if there is a perception out there that I have directed the police not to enforce these laws, that perception is completely false and I’m saying it right here and now so everyone can hear it,” Wheeler told the neighbors.

Without directly pointing fingers, Wheeler said it’s Police Chief Danielle Outlaw’s responsibility to handle command and control of those officers.

For Macpherson, someone is dropping the ball. 

“Where’s the miscommunication then? If they’re saying their hands are tied and you’re saying that’s absolutely not what you’re doing, then who’s not communicating what?” she said. 

Macpherson spoke to a few East Precinct officers, saying she was told to keep calling if any kind of crime was happening. PPB is also dealing with a staffing shortage, which Wheeler said needs to be fixed.

The Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association chair said they’ll try to invite Outlaw to a future meeting. Many at the meeting said they want to focus to shift to address the root of the problem — primarily mental health. 

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