PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Anne Marshall is a single mom living in the Lents neighborhood near SE 106th and Reedway. That’s the site for a proposed Safe Rest Village. And Marshall is not going to stick around to find out if her fears are accurate.
“I would like the people who are deciding where these things go to consider their own communities, because it feels like they put them everywhere else,” Marshall told KOIN 6 News. Her daughter “walks by herself to the bus stop, which is going to be just down the street from this camp. I don’t think that’s safe. I’m worried that there is no barrier to entry, no drug testing, no mental illness testing, and I’m worried about all the campers.”
On Saturday, the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association held a rally in protest of the Reedway Safe Rest Village, scheduled to be up and running by the end of this year.
Jeanne Ramsey, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, said the homeless problem is already bad in the area. She fears the new spot will make things worse.
“They’re so dirty we have rats the size of dogs that we have to contend with. We have trash all the time on our street that we’re having to pick up. If you walk back there, there’s trash and needles,” Ramsey said. “I mean it’s just nasty. It’s not a place that’s livable anymore.”
David Potts, the president of the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association, concedes the city of Portland “is probably not going to give people a say on where to locate them, but they could at least communicate. They have chosen not to.”
He said the city hasn’t communicated with those directly impacted by this Safe Rest Village and haven’t responded to their primary concerns.
Beyond how this site might impact the neighborhood’s safety, cleanliness or property value, the group also raised concerns about the site location. They say the site is zoned as open space, part of a wildlife refuge and has a history of contaminated soil.
But in 2016, the Department of Environmental Quality published a technical memorandum that said the state removed 364 tons of contaminated soil from the Reedway site and after the excavation the DEQ found “residual soil concentrations are protective of potential homeless campers, recreationalist, occupational workers, construction workers and excavation workers.”
Despite the pushback, city officials said they plan to have this Safe Rest Village built by the fall.
While Potts said he understands the village is coming regardless of what the neighborhood wants. But he also said the city’s decision is not only unfair but also in vain.
“It’s kind of like someone with a yacht and a hole in the water we pour money into,” Potts said. “The homeless situation is a hole in Portland that the City pours money into with no idea where it goes, or what the outcome is going to be.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office for comment on this Safe Rest Village. At this time there has been no response.