PORTLAND, Ore. – On day three of Portland’s historic Springwater sweep, the corridor was quiet and calm.
“It was unusual,” said Bob Archer of an uneventful Friday night, near Lambert Field. “You can sit on your front porch, and there was a few people back there, but way less than what we’re used to seeing.”
Trail users noticed, too.
“This particular area is much better,” said cyclist Tom Mathae.
“There are definitely less camps along the actual trail,” said Christopher Johansen.
But homeless advocates say silence is not a signal that the suffering has ended. It’s just moved.
“Homeless people feel like they have to hide and they’re scattered all over hidden, which makes our ability to help them more difficult,” said Camela Hicks with Rose City Backpacks of Hope.
The organization is one of several Portland nonprofits staffed by crew members clocking 80-plus hours this week to help the scattered campers build a life off the corridor. It’s a mission so stressful for some, that it’s spurred trips to the hospital.
“They were illnesses that were exacerbated either by the stress or by having to move,” Hicks said.
She says many of those campers are now so afraid of being found again, that they’re keeping their new campsites top secret. Hidden from people who can help, hidden from the media, and especially, hidden from city staff.
Meanwhile, Hicks said organizations such as Rose City Backpacks of Hope aren’t given assistance from the city, even though the city depends on their work.
“We get no funding from the city. And it all falls to us. And the city relies upon that,” Hicks said.
City officials say cleanup along the Corridor is halted for the holiday weekend. They estimate the sweep could take weeks and cost as much as $90,000.