Homeless living at Hazelnut Grove wonder what will happen next

Hazel Nut Grove residents wonder what's next

PORTLAND, Ore. -- People living in a homeless camp in North Portland are wondering what's next for them.

Hazelnut Grove is something of a tiny house village, located in the Overlook neighborhood. About 15 people live there.

At a recent Overlook neighborhood meeting, a representative with the mayor's office said Hazelnut Grove is not permanent and it will eventually move.

For about two years now, there’s been back-and-forth between Overlook neighborhood residents and the people living at Hazelnut Grove. This summer, a professional mediator was even brought in to find a compromise on a “good neighbor agreement” but mediation fell through.

Chris Trejbal, the Chair of the Overlook Neighborhood Association, said Hazelnut Grove representatives broke an agreement not to talk to the city while the two sides were using a mediator.

Bob Brimmer with Hazelnut Grove said the city asked to talk to them, “When the landlord comes knocking you don’t say no. The landlord being the city, because we live on their land. If they want to talk to us, we kind of have to say yes.”

A representative with the mayor’s office said, it was rocky from the beginning.

“Unfortunately the well had already been poisoned in terms of the relations between the neighbors and camp and now we’re going to move forward with another solution,” said Michael Cox, the Communications Director for the Portland Mayor’s Office.

But now, after the city's announcement, the question is where Hazelnut Grove will move to, and when.

“We've moved around so often and we're out of the way where we're at,” said Brimmer.

Right now, it’s located just off North Greeley Avenue in Portland. It’s a community people have built for themselves. It’s complete with a small kitchen, shower and small homes.

While Trejbal said he doesn’t have any issues with the people living at Hazelnut Grove, he does take issue with the location. He’s pushed for Hazelnut Grove to be moved since it formed.

“It's not a good approach to homelessness to allow people to set up camp wherever they want and not have supportive services from the city. It's also a site that's dangerous to the rest of the neighborhood. It's a wildfire hazard zone. It's an area that gets flooded,” said Trejbal.

While he hopes the mayor will follow through, he said he's heard this plan before and nothing's happened yet. He has questions.

“Where will they move them to? The city insists it can't find land for additional homeless camps so that's an immediate challenge. I'd like to hear a timeline,” Trejbal said.

Over at the mayor's office, we didn't get any clear answers on that front. At this point there's no timeline and no location set.

“This is obviously the big challenge we have. We had a very challenging time finding a new location for R2D2 earlier this year which we did,” said Cox.

Right 2 Dream Too is another homeless camp that took years to relocate from Old Town in Portland.

Cox said the Hazelnut Grove model is a promising one, since staying in a traditional shelter doesn’t work for everybody.

“We do support what they’re doing there. But we expect it to be on a different site,” he said.

People living at Hazelnut Grove said they're not necessarily against a move, so long as it’s to the right location. Still, they feel unwanted in the place they call home.

“It's off-putting to be really just like, we don't want you here, we don't want you here,” said Brimmer.

But he said if they have to move, they want a place where they can grow their own food and have access to public transportation.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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