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Campsite Assessment, Removal, and Property Retrieval

Information
Picture of a large campsite along SW 12th and Market Street
When concerns are reported, a team is dispatched to clean up trash, provide resources, and assess health and safety. The highest-risk sites are scheduled for removal, and personal property is safely stored.

The Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program, or Impact Reduction Program (IRP), is responsible for coordinating campsite cleanups on property and right-of-way owned by the City of Portland or the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Campsite assessments and removals are part of the Impact Reduction Program's work to reduce the impacts of homelessness today while partner programs expand access to safe, affordable housing.

IRP's work is not designed to be a solution to homelessness, but serves as a necessary response to our ongoing homelessness crisis. IRP staff and their contracted crew members address harmful and potentially dangerous impacts that arise when people are living in public spaces not designed for human habitation. Without access to hygiene and other services, campsites in urban settings can become health and safety hazards – not just to the surrounding community, but to people living in encampments too.

How the process works

a diagram of the Impact Reduction Program's workflow from community reports to assessment and site removal
An overview of the Impact Reduction Program process, from receiving community reports about campsites, to assessment and, in some cases, camp removal

Assessment

Campsite assessment begins when a community member reports a concern, generating a work assignment to dispatch an assessment team. IRP contracts with Central City Concern's Clean Start program to manage the assessment part of the process, bringing staff with lived experience to campsites to make an initial visit, engage with people at the site, offer resources, and pick up garbage identified by campers. Assessment teams are not removing campers' personal property. 

The assessment visit also includes contracted staff members conducting a risk assessment report based on established criteria:

A clean start employee loading two bags of trash into the back of a truck
A Clean Start employee loads trash into a truck during a campsite assessment visit
  • Conspicuous drug use or paraphernalia
  • Impact on neighborhood livability
  • Proximity to school, park with playground or private residence
  • Environmental impact
  • Restricts access by Americans with Disabilities Act standards
  • Posted no-trespassing
  • Size of camp
  • Reported violence or crime
  • Blocking public access
  • Restricts maintenance

Based on the assessment report results, campsites that pose the highest risk to health and safety are prioritized for removal.

Posting Notice

Picture of a posted notice at an illegal campsite informing of a planned camp removal
Signs are posted to notify camp residents of the Impact Reduction Program's intention to remove a camp

The City posts a legal notice to inform people their campsite will be removed in 72 hours to 10 days. The City notifies local social service providers about all sites posted for removal via email and in a weekly meeting. This gives local outreach teams an opportunity to connect people to resources and check in with campers prior to a removal taking place.

City removal crews also give a second notice to campers at the site 12-24 hours prior to a removal. Finally, a last warning is given by cleaning crews on the day of a removal, an hour prior to full removal efforts starting. During this hour crews may start to clear garbage but are not removing property.

Posting notice for campers is one of many protocol adopted by IRP in order to comply with Oregon State Law (ORS 195.505).

Removal

Removal crews identify personal property and take property to the property storage warehouse, where it is stored for at least 30 days. Residents present and outside at the time of a removal are offered a business card with the phone number of the warehouse where their property can be retrieved. Information about how to retrieve property is also listed on the initial posted warning signs.

All property taken from a site is bagged and labeled with the removal date and location. If a resident is present at the time their personal property is being removed, they can provide an identifying code (i.e., name, number, etc.). City agents will place the identifying code on each bag of personal property belonging to that person, though no one is ever required to associate an identifying code with their property. City agents also take reasonable steps to return personal property to residents while that property remains at the campsite location, even after property has been bagged or placed on the truck for removal. 

City removal crews photograph the campsite location, including property and garbage, prior to bagging items.

The City's full Campsite Removal Policy has further details about protocols and procedures around campsite removals.

Dignity and respect

The City acknowledges that campsite removals can cause trauma. We continually work to minimize that trauma by establishing clear expectations and training for teams who engage with people experiencing homelessness on behalf of the Impact Reduction Program.

Our contracts with assessment, posting and removal vendors require that staff members be “polite, diplomatic and professional at all times, and treat all persons with dignity and respect.” Required trainings and policies include nonviolent de-escalation, assertive engagement with neuro-diverse individuals, provision of medicine to reverse narcotic overdoses, CPR and the availability of an on-call mental health associate.

The City also strives to hire people who have lived experience as a way to bring empathetic people to the work, and as a means to create easy-entry job opportunities that help more people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless achieve economic independence. The City contracts with Central City Concern’s Clean Start, a homeless to work program, to staff campsite assessment teams. Those first responders are able to draw on their lived experience when they engage with people and are uniquely suited to report back to IRP about campsite conditions with an experienced, unbiased perspective. 

The City contracts with two companies to conduct the posting and removal processes, both of whom are second chance employers – hiring people who very often have lived experience with homelessness, substance use and recovery, and/or recorded histories with the criminal justice system. About 85 percent of people employed by the primary City contractor that conducts site removals have lived experience with homelessness.

A contracted City worker cleaning up at an unsanctioned camp
A contracted City worker cleaning up at an unsanctioned camp in Northeast Portland

Report a campsite

To report concerns about a campsite, file a report online or by calling 311 or 503-823-4000

The Impact Reduction Program is a complaint driven system; the team learns about campsites and trash via public input. The City does not have the resources to be everywhere at once, which is why the program focuses on locations that pose the greatest health and safety risks. 

How to retrieve property

Property collected from campsites will be stored by a City contractor for at least 30 days. Property left for longer than 30 days will be destroyed or donated.

To arrange pickup, please call 503-387-1336 with the date, location and a description of items collected Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

No identification or name is required for obtaining removed property unless obtaining prescription medications, personal identification or credit cards (in which case name is required).

There is no fee, fine, ticket or citation for retrieving personal property and the City does not perform warrant checks or ICE referrals in connection with the retrieval of personal property. 

If you are unable to retrieve your personal belongings within 30 days, please call the number to work out an extension. 

To obtain weapons or evidence collected by Portland Police Bureau, please visit: https://www.portland.gov/police…