Homeless camp cleanup on hold as city negotiates contract

Civic Affairs

Campsite cleanups haven't been conducted since Dec. 30

PORTLAND, Ore (KOIN) — Large scale cleanup of homeless camps in Portland is on hold while city leaders work to agree on a new contract for the program.

Campsite cleanups haven’t been conducted since last week, and won’t happen again until the city approves a new contract for the city’s “One Point of Contact” program. Rapid Response Bio Clean, the company contracted by the city to post and clean dozens of sites each week, hasn’t been to a Portland campsite since December 30.

The $4.5 million, 5-year agreement was pulled from last month’s city council agenda after homeless advocates and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty expressed concerns about the program and the interactions cleaning staff were having with homeless campers.

“You can actually see these types of problems are being created,” said Eddie, who camps on Portland’s streets. “I have friends where that happened to them, and they just come by and take all their personal goods.”

Most people living in tents, like Eddie, have experienced firsthand the struggles of keeping personal property.

Mayor Ted Wheeler said changes to the contract are designed to address health and safety issues with a compassionate approach. New language includes training staff in de-escalation and conflict resolution, improved communication about the process, and how to properly administer the overdose drug Narcan.

“We can effectively address public health, environmental, and public safety issues in problematic camps while also being compassionate in our approach. This contract achieves both goals. This is the case that I will make to my City Council colleagues on Wednesday,” said Ted Wheeler in a written statement.

In a post on social media Monday, Hardesty explained she supported those changes and now plans to vote for a compromise that will, “require council approval for extension past the first year.” While city leaders look to other options that involve the community and other smaller contractors.

While thorough camp cleanings where campers have to move their property aren’t happening right now, the city’s Clean Start program is still responding to reports, visiting campsites, and removing trash and needles from around the area.

Portland’s City Council is expected to vote on a new contract this Wednesday.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

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