Portland transients create 'skid row' on river

Portland transients create 'skid row' on river

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by Abbey Gibb, KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on June 9, 2011 at 6:47 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 9 at 11:06 AM

PORTLAND -- Some of the city's homeless have left the streets to sleep on the Willamette River in boats.

"It's what you would see on skid row, but skid row has moved to the water," said Lt. Bret Elliot of the  Multnomah County Marine Patrol.

About 15 vessels now bob along the East Bank Esplanade and the South Waterfront bank.

Authorities said the floating homeless camp started appearing about two years ago, likely because of the economy.

"The numbers have tripled or quadrupled," Elliot said, "They have arrived and have little intention or ability to go anywhere else."

Most of the vessels don't have working engines anymore and none of them are actually used for marine recreation. Patrol officers said the owners either find abandoned boats or buy one on the cheap, and then move aboard without ever having to pay rent as long as they keep floating on the river.

One man told KGW from his boat that he stays on the water because shelters won't allow him to bring his dog along.

Is this legal? Yes, mostly.

The rules say that the boats just can't stay in one place for more than 30 days.

"To make a trespass case on them is considerable," said Elliot.

One of the concerns is that most of the boats do not have bathrooms, so the people who live on them often use the shoreline instead. 

Police also said that many dump their trash into the water, causing complaints up and down the river.

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