Principal’s hands tied over homeless camper near school

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The principal of a local elementary school told parents Tuesday there was nothing she or police could do about a homeless camper who pitched a tent right outside campus.

The camper reportedly showed up near Abernethy Elementary School’s playground just a few days ago.

A school resource officer checked out the tent, but didn’t find anything considered a safety threat. Because of that, police reportedly said there was nothing they could do.

But KOIN 6 News learned that wasn’t necessarily the case.

“There was a failure of communication in that situation,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “Someone, apparently from the police bureau, told them there was nothing that could be done… and that’s wrong. It’s not legal to have a tent up during the daytime.”

While Mayor Hales says police enforce the rule, they can’t be everywhere.

The homeless camper outside Abernethy Elementary picked up her things and left after being confronted by police. She says she’s schizophrenic and claims she moved near the school to get away from other, more dangerous homeless people.

District officials say homeless campers aren’t just moving to spots in that area. Campers are reportedly pitching tents near schools around Portland.

Now local parents are pushing for some kind of action. They want the city to come up with zoning rules that would limit how close homeless campers can get to schools.

“I think there needs to be a remedy to the problem,” Abernethy Elementary PTA President Jim Kohler said. “It’s obviously a city-wide problem, but I think particularly when schools come into play, personally I feel like there should be some type of exclusion zone around schools for the safety of the kids.”

Mayor Hales admits there’s no quick-fix to the problem.

“It’s a difficult problem to solve,” he said. “Nobody has an overnight solution.”

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