Can you, as a local Portlander, guess how many homeless people currently sleep on the streets? If you guessed anywhere in the vicinity of “enough people to declare a state of emergency and sue the mayor!” you’d be correct. If not, well, you’ll be surprised to know that thousands of people–and counting– sleep on the streets in Portland, a state of emergency has been declared, deemed ineffective, and Mayor Charlie Hales is currently being sued along with the City of Portland.
The 2015-2016 Homeless Crisis
According to a KGW report, over 1,800 are sleeping on Portland streets as of today and that number continues to climb. Some estimates by the city government put that number as high as 4,000! The onset of summer attracts additional drifters from other areas who travel according to the warmer weather. Individuals, families, seniors, and people with disabilities all find themselves in this walk of life, yet the multiplication of the homeless creates a serious problem for the homeless, the city, and its residents.
Homelessness typically brings about a spike in crime; particularly instances of theft, public drug use, arson, assault, and rape. This elevates the number of Portland personal injury suits in circulation. In Portland, homeless persons are also purchasing RVs they can’t legally park anywhere. Homeless camps are being set on fire, endangering the lives of everyone near the camps. These issues are not limited to just residents who live around the camps; these are issues the homeless themselves face each and every day without access to proper shelter. A state of emergency was declared in September of 2015 bringing in millions of dollars to expand shelter capacity. Nearly 600 beds were added and made available year round, but the crisis lingered.
Main Areas Affected
One of the main camping grounds pitched by the homeless has its own name– Hazelnut Grove — and is found on Greeley Avenue in Portland’s Overlook Neighborhood. The Overlook Neighborhood Association accused the mayor’s office of failing to limit the number of campers way back in December 2015. The campground affects the section of North Greeley Street below Interstate Avenue.
Beside Hazelnut Grove a newer camp developed called Forgotten Realms. Residents of these camps claim the media attention attracts even more transients, thinning out the supply of resources shared between “permanent” residents who have lived in Portland’s homeless camps a number of years.
Springwater Corridor, a 21 mile trail from Portland to Gresham, OR in Southeast Portland has also transformed into a homeless haven, driving away visitors and even a children’s outdoor summer camp.
The problem has grown so alarming that a homeless camp in Downtown Portland even has a spot on Yelp. A Yelp user and Portland resident sarcastically awarded the section of Salmon Street 5 stars for free tent camping with views of Mt. Hood.
What Action is Being Taken?
As a response to the crisis, Mayor Hales elected his lenient camping policy, an experiment that was only supposed to last 6 months and has gone horribly wrong. This careless policy allows the homeless to form camps on public property and provides nothing substantial to protect them or Portland residents who, along with local businesses, have had enough of the Mayor’s short-term fix.
In the state of crisis, Hales successfully circumvented city laws to enact The “Safe Sleep Policy” in February 2016, allowing homeless individuals to set up camps of no more than six people between the hours of 9 PM and 7 AM. Initially, this policy was only going to continue for an evaluation period of 6 months while the city attempted to build more affordable housing. Attorney Paul Conable of Tonkin Torp argues that the policy was never agreed upon by members of Portland’s City Council, which declared the state of emergency in the first place.
Portland residents, merchants, and homeless advocates bonded in mid-April to form a coalition to address the city’s urgent homeless crisis. Calling themselves Safe & Livable Portland, the coalition is made up of dozens of groups that are incensed at Mayor Hale’s loose homeless camping policy. They are filing suit against the Mayor and the City over the fact that the Portland City Council did not get an opportunity to vote on the policy.
According to KOIN 6, plaintiffs represented by Conable include several neighborhood associations and local businesses, such as the Portland Business Alliance, Overlook Neighborhood Association, Central Eastside Industrial Council, the Pearl District Neighborhood Association and the Cartlandia food cart pod from 82nd Avenue.
The future of the homeless crisis in Portland is undetermined, but what you can count on is honest legal representation on your behalf. If you’ve been a victim of this spike in crime seeking legal counsel is an option you will always have available. Rizk Law handles all types of personal injury claims in Portland, Oregon. Contact Richard Rizk at (503) 245-5667 or firstname.lastname@example.org.