PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Jennifer Kraxberger said she and her husband have had dangerous encounters with homeless campers right across from their driveway in Southeast Portland over the past year.
The neighborhood collectively has spent a year clearing out the trash and debris from the homeless camps. But now they are concerned this site was chosen as one of the 3 Safe Rest Villages throughout Portland.
This site at SE 45th and Harney is right by the Franz Bakery, Springwater Corridor, schools and other natural areas and parks. Kraxberger worries that a Safe Rest Village will bring back all the issues the neighborhood dealt with in recent months.
“I have 4 kids and I already don’t feel comfortable having them walk to the market that’s a block away by themselves because of the activity – and now they’re going to be putting in something that’s going to attract more people who will potentially be just as dangerous as the ones we’ve been experiencing for the last year-and-a-half,” she told KOIN 6 News.
Billy Cook, who lives up the hill from the site, doesn’t claim to have all the answers to end homelessness.
“But I do know thousands of vacant spaces in Southeast Portland that aren’t directly attached to a nature preserve that we’re trying to get salmon to run through, down the hill from a school, in a residentail area across from a kids play area,” Cook said.
“It’s not these villages, its the outskirts,” said neighbor Bobbi Jo Allen, “because that’s where they do these things and go back to the main camp.”
Numerous residents shared concerns about the Safe Rest Village site attracting more homeless who don’t live in the village to their neighborhood, and the environmental impact it would have on the Springwater Corridor and nearby parks.
“They’re going to stay here, they’re not being taught how to be stewards of the land,” said Molly Stiles. “They’re going to put their camp right here, right down there on the trail that my children walk on.”
This tight-knit community has put in a lot of effort to keep their neighborhood pristine, removing homeless camps and debris left behind over the past year.
“I have 5-year-old twins and we’re walking through needles, condoms. We’re having to have really difficult adult conversations with young people,” Allen said. “It really affects our life. We just want to go to the market and get some ice cream.”
Collectively, the neighbors who spoke with KOIN 6 News feel unconsulted and unheard.
“We also feel that we’re viewed as an undervalued neighborhood and therefore it doesn’t matter what they do here,” said resident Terri Parkin.
When asked about this at a Thursday press conference, Commissioner Dan Ryan said they tried reaching out to as many people as possible, but were counting on local journalists to get the word out to the majority.
The residents are empathetic to the homeless crisis. But they want to see larger solutions to the bigger problem.
“I have huge compassion for this homeless problem in this town and what COVID has done to people’s finances. I do want there to be a Safe Village for them to stay on,” Stiles said. “I just think this is an incredibly poorly thought-out spot.”
KOIN 6 News contacted Ryan’s office to get his view on the neighborhood concerns and said in a statement in part: “This is just the start. My office and our Safe Rest Villages team is committed to community engagement, and now that some of the locations have been announced, our outreach efforts will ramp up.”