PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The playground at Couch Park in Northwest Portland is often filled with kids. With school starting even more kids will be on the playground –and right now there is a homeless camp in front of it.

Metropolitan Learning Center uses the playground during the school year. One grandmother who said her grandchildren will start kindergarten and 2nd grade told KOIN 6 News that playground is one of her biggest worries.

“It’s a real problem,” she said. “We’re concerned about the playground that it’s going to be combined, that it’s readily not accessible to the homeless. It’s concerning.”

While KOIN 6 News was at the scene talking with parents, a man walked onto the playground, talked with kids and played on the equipment. He told KOIN 6 News he lives on the streets but is getting housing in a few days.

Mayor Ted Wheeler recently banned camping within 150 feet of a school. The mayor’s office said their team is aware of the homeless camp at Couch Park and will give campers notice by the end of this week that the camp will be removed next week.

A grandmother is concerned about the homeless camp near Couch Park in Northwest Portland, August 30, 2022 (KOIN)
A grandmother is concerned about the homeless camp near Couch Park in Northwest Portland, August 30, 2022 (KOIN)

But the grandmother is frustrated that sites like this — tents and scattered trash on the sidewalks and streets — have become normal for her grandchildren.

“Basically they’re pretty used to it but they know if it’s outrageous behavior to move away and not be near it,” she said. “I hope it will change. I wish the city would do more.”

On Tuesday, Wheeler’s office told KOIN 6 News the city has removed more than 2 dozen camps near schools and along safe walking routes since his August 19 declaration.

Asked if there are plans to make sure campers don’t return to those spots, the mayor’s office said:

The expanded Emergency Declaration prohibits camping around school buildings and along priority routes to and from schools, prioritizes the work of the Impact Reduction Program to post and remove camps in these areas, and enables them to keep these sites free of camping if people return. Our messaging and verbal outreach reflects this.