PORTLAND – The number of homeless encampments found along the city’s Springwater Corridor Trail is on the rise.
Homeless camps have been cropping up along the popular east side trail more and more since the city began cracking down on transients in downtown Portland last year. Makeshift tents, trash, debris, and blankets littering the sides of trail have become increasingly common.
While the city's approach has been to help the homeless get back on their feet, rather than urging them to move on, results have been mixed and many trail users said Monday they want to see a change.
It’s illegal to camp along the trail but police and park rangers said they have a difficult time enforcing the ban. Campers either resist physically or just move to another area.
Right now, park rangers, police and the county river patrols offer social services, medical care and education about camping bans to the homeless rather than to aggressively enforce no-trespassing rules.
“Of course we want the campsites gone, the trash removed and the trail clear again,” said Mark Ross with the city’s Parks and Recreation Bureau. “But it is paramount that we do what we can to give folks the help they need, for their benefit and as in this case, for the benefit of our parks and all parks and trail users.”
They say it’s treating the cause, not the symptom, and park rangers say they're seeing results.
"Homeless people can't be lumped together as all needing the same, uniform services," said former ranger Katie Gribbon.
She said through working with campers instead of just enforcing codes, she's helped one woman find an apartment, another find pregnancy resources and others move on to better situations.
But some who regularly run and bike along the trail said Monday that the transients pose a threat and they want the area cleaned up one way or the other.
“It's dangerous,” said trail user Scott McDonald. “You come around this corner here and you can't see the stuff and they've got fires out here and people walking back and forth.”
So far, campers have not agreed to clean up and leave the area willingly. Rangers said they will use police to help get transients to comply with the no trespassing law, if and after all other attempts fail.
KGW Unit 8 reporter Chris Willis contributed to this report.