PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The city of Portland swept two homeless campsites on Thursday, one in southeast Portland near Cesar Chavez Boulevard and the other at Laurelhurst Park.
A spokesperson for the city’s Urban Camping Impact Reduction program acknowledged these cleanups are not a solution — saying they are meant to reduce the impact homelessness has on the environment and community.
During the sweeps, camp cleanup crews loaded up people’s belongings and transferred them to a storage space.
KOIN 6 News talked to Robert Goff, one of those 25 campers forced to pack up their belongings.
Goff said he came to Oregon in 2021 and spent eight months living in his RV until the city towed it. Goss explained he has a list of health issues and wants a place to live, but said there is no way he can afford rent.
“My disability check is less than $800 a month… who can afford rent with $800 a month?” Goff said. “They said they would put me on a list … when they took my RV.”
Matthew Koharchick, who was at the Laurelhurst playground with his two-year-old daughter, told KOIN 6 News that he understood why the sweeps happened and that he wants to protect his daughter.
“My wife and I, we talk about it when we hear it on the news and every time we are in agreement, folks that are homeless, they’re in a bad situation. Clearly, we would want them to have someplace and be safe, people go through rough times. But when we go to a park, especially with our little ones, we want to be safe, and even if they’re not really doing anything, you hear loud yells and whether its vulgar or not your defense goes up automatically, especially as a parent,” he said.
A spokesperson for the city told KOIN 6 News they are aware camp cleanups are not meant to be a permanent solution to Portland’s homeless crisis.
“We remove trash, biohazardous materials and needles from our parks and public spaces for the health and safety of our community,” the spokesperson said. “This program was never meant to offer a permanent solution to Portland’s homelessness crisis. Most people will agree we need access to permanent, affordable housing in order to solve homelessness.”
The spokesperson went on to say that homelessness is not a crime and there are limited options for people to go.
“We are very aware that people experiencing homelessness often return to camp sites. People create a community and prefer to stay in familiar locations. The City does not currently prevent this. We firmly maintain that being homeless is not a crime and there are limited options for people to go,” the city spokesperson said. “This upsets many residents, but again, our primary goal is to reduce the impact camping has on the community — not to prevent camping in public spaces.”