Doc: Portland removed trash, biohazards from 67 campsites last week

Portland

Encampment-clearing to ramp up after limited activity during pandemic

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Sixty-seven campsites in Portland were cleared of trash, debris and biohazards last week, according to a document from the Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Program.

On Monday, a cleanup of Chapman Square was underway around 9 a.m.

Under the program, no personal belongings were taken, according to the document. Crews also engaged with those living in the camps and collected garbage and biohazardous materials.

Dozens of sites are set to be cleaned this week, with dozens more identified for future cleanups, according to the document.

A lot of homeless camp cleanups in 2020 were put on hold because of the pandemic. Health officials advised against doing so to keep from people moving around the city and potentially spreading the virus.

A spokesperson for Portland’s Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program said roughly 50 encampments would be cleared each week. Since the height of the pandemic, that average fell to roughly six per week because of the growing number of camps. Officials said more encampments feature more than just tents. Often times, large machinery is required to come in and take down the makeshift structures that have been erected.

Officials told us they do not have an adequate amount of resources to return to the 50-per-week average.

Tents at a homeless camp on a spring day in Portland, April 5, 2021 (KOIN)

“The navigation teams will spend weeks at some of these very challenging campsites, working with folks, building trust, and taking care of some of those basics,” said Denis Theriault, of the Joint Office of Homeless Services. “The idea is, if you’re going to move someone from a challenging site, at least you want to help leave them in a better position. You don’t want them to just have to go somewhere else and start that camping cycle all over again.”

PPB said the incident at Chapman Square Monday was centered around a call regarding a man arrested three days earlier for several violent crimes in the park. Because the man, Randy Graves, had been banned from the park, officers cited him for criminal trespass Monday and had his property removed from the area.

On Saturday, Graves, 32, threatened several Portland Parks and Recreation Rangers with an axe and shot a bystander with a paintball.

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