We all agree everyone in our community deserves a humane, safe place to sleep. We must provide compassionate alternatives for people currently experiencing houselessness. We also must ensure our rights-of-ways, businesses, natural areas and other public spaces and neighborhoods remain safe.
That’s why the city worked with its partners to open nearly 300 new, COVID-safe, 24-hour shelter spaces. It’s also why the city sometimes must relocate campsites that threaten the safety and health of people living at those sites and other people as well.
There is no better example of this challenge than Laurelhurst Park, where large numbers of campers are blocking sidewalks, and some are unwilling or unable to adhere to COVID-safe physical distancing and ADA accessibility guidelines.
During the last two weeks, city outreach teams have been at Laurelhurst every day. They’ve successfully referred 52 people camping near the park into shelter, giving them a safe alternative out of the elements and connections to a continuum of services provided by the Joint Office of Homeless Services and its partner organizations.
City outreach teams have been working directly with people camping near Laurelhurst for months to mitigate problems. Because those efforts were not entirely successful, the city and its partners ensured there were safe alternatives available for the people camping at Laurelhurst and only then posted the area for campsite removal.
Despite the safe alternatives and the ongoing outreach work, a small number of people remain opposed to relocating the camps at the park. Late last night, that small group vandalized a local small business that works with the city to help manage these complex and challenging problems.
We unequivocally condemn the vandalism, particularly because the business harmed is dedicated to helping people living outside manage their campgrounds by cleaning biohazards and human waste to mitigate the spread of virulent diseases, including COVID-19.
The company maintains 137 hygiene units throughout the City of Portland. They assist the Joint Office of Homeless Services in delivering life-saving information and life-saving supplies to individuals experiencing homelessness. They provide daily trash mitigation and cleanup of human waste at campsites. In fact, people experiencing homelessness request the company assist them with trash and human waste removal. Nearly 75 percent of the company’s staff have similar lived experience to those at campsites.
We will do everything in our power to ensure those responsible for this criminal act are apprehended and held accountable.