PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE/KOIN) — City officials and contractors have begun clearing out a homeless camp in one of Portland’s tony east-side neighborhoods.
Rapid Response Bio Clean crews started clearing out the long row of tents and other structures on Southeast Oak Street in the morning hours on Thursday, Nov. 19.
One Rapid Response contractor told Alex Zielinski of the Portland Mercury: “We know we’re moving you and you’re going to just have to set up camp somewhere else. I don’t want this guy to be living in this tent, it’s bulls—. These people deserve something better than a shelter.”
Volunteers with Sisters of the Road were on-site assisting residents of the camp, Zielinski reported. Portland Police Bureau officers were not visible, but some officials with the Bureau of Transportation were spotted.
One resident, Pony, told Street Roots executive director Kaia Sand: “This was the first time I had a structure in eight years.”
During rallies earlier this month, dozens of local activists had vowed to prevent the clearing out of the campsite — and a small band of unknown persons inflicted minor vandalism to the Rapid Response Bio Clean headquarters days later.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said some in the camp were referred to newly-opened shelters, but others remained and did not follow social distancing mandates and other rules.
“We are taking action at Laurelhurst Park to ensure the health and safety of people living in our community and of our shared public spaces,” Wheeler said in a statement. “We posted the site clearly and with ample warning so people were aware that a change was needed.”
The mayor added that outreach workers have visted the encampment daily for two-weeks.
“Moving forward, we will continue providing compassionate alternatives to street camping while preventing large-scale camps that block sidewalks and rights of way, creating public safety and health risks and obstructing access to shared community spaces,” he said. “As we continue to address sites that pose risks to public and environmental health and safety, we will be deliberate in ensuring we continue to thoughtfully and sustainably balance a broad variety of needs and expectations.”
The Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group’s papers are a KOIN 6 News media partner