Laurelhurst Park seeing influx of homeless campers

Homeless camping at Laurelhurst Park

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland's homeless crisis has now added a new zip code: The Laurelhurst neighborhood in Southeast Portland.

Some of the homeless forced to find a new place to live off the Springwater Corridor are setting up tents at one of the city's largest and most beautiful parks. And of course, that's not sitting well with the neighborhood.

Car campers, with belongings piled high, and tents are lining the sidewalk of Southeast Oak Street, next to Laurelhurst Park. It's been all fine to Steve Robinson, until some of the homeless people started approaching his young grandson at the park.

"One of the biggest problems, is they tend to urinate and defacate wherever they want. And you say 'why are you doing that here? There are bathrooms right up there.' And they say 'because I can,'" Robinson said.

Laurelhurst Park is home to summer day camps for kids. Basketball leagues, and soccer games. What this wealthy, established neighborhood is not used to, is their new neighbors.

Jack Dorrian is one of them, but he's a little different. Dorrian used to pay rent on an apartment. He decided it was way too expensive, and he chose a life on the streets. He worked the entire time as a bike courier. Eventually, he saved up enough money to buy a Prius. Now he lives inside, and drives it during the day delivering take-out food.

"I had a few neighbors harassing me, like what are you doing sleeping in your car in front of my house?" he said.

He puts down the back seat with a mattress, and uses free Wifi from stores for his laptop. He's now saved up enough money from working, and bought a plane ticket to Europe. He leaves in a week.

"The thing that surprises me the most is how is everyone else not working!? What are you doing? How do you eat, how do you do any of your hobbies?" Dorrian said.

He understands the frustration Laurelhurst homeowners feel paying high taxes, and looking out their window to see tents and car campers like himself.

"I mean this guy's house, is definitely over a million dollars, right here on Laurelhurst Park, he's paying for it and now there's just a homeless camp right here. I mean he's bound to be a little bit annoyed right? You spend all your money building your dream here, and then you have to deal with these lunatics right outside your door," he said.

What attracted him to the park was simple. "I met a couple other people sleeping in their cars and they weren't on hard drugs and they seemed pretty normal, and I was pretty into that."

Steve Robinson says enough is enough. "They need to have more enforcement in the area and police presence to control that."

And that is beginning. Michael Jenkins, homeless with his two dogs, moved here from Springwater, and was recently visited by the police.

"The officer handed me this and said it was a warning. And I said a warning for what? He said I'm giving you a ticket for camping."

If Jenkins isn't gone by the time police come back, he says he'll be arrested. But it won't help him get off the streets.

"I mean it makes sense, if you're going to kick them out of there, they're just going to go somewhere else," Dorrian said. "It'd make more sense if they gave them a hint, or a nudge somewhere else that they'd prefer everyone to be."

The sweep of the Springwater Corridor Trail is scheduled for September 1. Many more neighborhoods will likely see tents moving in.


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