Portland homeless camp removals: ‘Believe it when I see it’

Civic Affairs

City of Portland announced a 'more assertive approach' to camp removal

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Eddie Lafferty said he was once a wildland and structural firefighter in Nevada. Now he’s living on the streets of Portland with his partner.

“I was a firefighter and then I got hurt,” Lafferty told KOIN 6 News. “Some of us don’t like being out here and I know I don’t, me and my girl. But I don’t know what else to do.”

Eddie Lafferty, who said he was once a firefighter in Nevada, is now homeless on the streets of Portland, May 19, 2021 (KOIN)

A notification taped to a tree near his campsite explains what to expect if the City of Portland does a sweep. Lafferty said he’s already experienced them firsthand.

“They come in and they take everything. Some of these folks don’t deserve it. And a lot of them do,” he said.

The city of Portland announced Wednesday it will be increasing the number of urban homeless camps they remove, focusing on camps that pose public health and safety risks, beginning Monday, May 24.

David Potts isn’t holding his breath.

“Anything that a politician says, I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Potts, the president of the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association. “We’ve been burned enough times. It’s time to see some action rather than words.”

A homeless camp in a Southeast Portland neighborhood, May 19, 2021 (KOIN)

He feels people might leave Portland if this new effort isn’t effective.

“They better really get serious about effectively dealing with their homeless situation,” Potts said. “140,000 people work downtown. Office workers worked downtown prior to COVID. Nobody wants to go back to work downtown and it’s because it’s not safe.”

David Potts, the president of the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association, May 19, 2021 (KOIN)

But he’s also concerned that without better housing options those displaced will simply relocate.

“The homeless folks are just going to be pushed east into our neighborhoods,” he said.

Even if there was shelter space available, Eddie Lafferty said he’d prefer not to go.

“No, I won’t do it,” Lafferty said. “It’s just so they can get their free things and I’m not all about that.”

A homeless camp in a Southeast Portland neighborhood, May 19, 2021 (KOIN)

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