PORTLAND - Neighbors in downtown Portland's South Park Blocks say a non-profit is illegally taking over the park and bringing with it more problems.
Twice a week from Southwest Market to Salmon Street, neighbors with Friends of the South Park Blocks patrol the linear urban park.
“There’s a pretty fair amount of drug sales and use. I can smell pot right now,” said neighbor David Newman.
Drugs and transients are a problem throughout downtown, but this group now fears an unwelcome neighbor is adding to the problem.
“They kind of take over the park,” added Newman.
The non-profit Christian group Transitional Youth sets up a free dinner every Monday in Shemanski Park on the north end of South Park Blocks.
“Each night we see anywhere from 45 to about 80 kids. Kids that are struggling with homelessness and are looking for a safe place to come to have a meal,” said Rhonna Mahl with the organization.
The problem? Transitional Youth doesn't have a permit and hasn't had one for almost a year. “We have been working towards that, there’s a lot of red tape on the other end,” said Mahl.
Newman sees it a different way, “They skirt the rules basically.”
Transitional Youth said it's fighting the same cause.
“We’ve approached drug dealers and said please leave the area. We keep this place more safe while we’re here,” said Mahl.
A stabbing at the end of August has the neighborhood group fed up. With no permit in sight, they vow to keep this beautiful park safe for all.