PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland’s Montavilla Neighborhood Association went against the citywide grain this week, by approving a resolution, requesting Mayor Ted Wheeler and the city council cease sweeping homeless camps within the neighborhood’s boundaries.
In the resolution, passed Tuesday, the board of directors “urges the Portland City Council to cease further sweeps of camps in the Montavilla Neighborhood Boundaries which may be unconstitutional and be human rights violations…”
It adds sweeps “…do not reduce homelessness…” and “…waste taxpayer dollars…”
Later, it “urges the Portland City Council to convene a meeting of stakeholders… to develop a responsible five-year plan to address homelessness by allocating limited taxpayer dollars to long term solutions that reduce the population of those living outside by adding affordable housing, new shelter beds, transitional housing and adequate mental health and substance abuse services…”
Directors declined to speak to KGW about the resolution, saying it spoke for itself.
People who live and work in Montavilla were surprised to hear of its passing. Many had mixed reactions.
“I did call it ‘ridiculous’,” said Monettafaye Burns, who lives near a homeless camp at Northeast 82nd Avenue and Multnomah Street. “We've had thievery. We've had campfires, I mean, actual fires.”
Burns added she calls the city several times a week to report the camp.
“I’ve already called today because there’s another tent there,” she said.
Those who work in Montavilla’s business districts say they’re not terribly impacted by homeless campers and agree sweeps seem ineffective, if not cruel.
“It's like putting a band aid on something that's actually a really big gaping wound. It fixes it a tiny bit, but you're still going to get an infection,” said Kimberleigh Lewis, who manages a heavy-equipment rental shop and often finds homeless campers sleeping outside their front door.
But Lewis, like staff at neighboring businesses, noted such a resolution seemed random.
“I don't think it's horrific here,” she said of homeless camping in Montavilla. “I feel like it's worse south of here.”
Staff with Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office Wednesday confirmed Lewis was right.
Compared to a handful of other Portland neighborhoods, Montavilla doesn’t have a big problem with chronic homeless camping.
Spokesman Michael Cox added, when a camp does put down roots in Montavilla it’s swept quickly, largely because the office receives 40-50 calls per camp.
South of Montavilla, however, sits the embattled Lents neighborhood. It’s home to large portions of Portland’s Springwater Corridor, which hosted the city’s largest ever homeless sweep in September of 2016.
Months later, residents frequently plead with the city for help clearing homeless campers from sidewalks, street corners and vacant properties.
Robert Schultz, an activist in the community, said people there feel like Montavilla is villainizing their struggle.
“It's unfair to take this position that says sweeps are bad when the folks who are most deeply impacted say ‘We need more sweeps,’” he said. “If they want to do it in Montavilla, let's get maps and hand them out. I'm happy to help, I'll knock on doors and get the RVs moving over.”
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