Rose Festival prompts homeless sweep: 'They want things to look nice'

ODOT, PPB clash over clearing homeless camps

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Homeless campers along the Portland Rose Festival parade route were swept out of their homeless camps today.

The sweep is consistent with prior years leading up to the parades.

The homeless camp sits on Oregon Department of Transportation property at Southwest 14th Avenue and Taylor Street in downtown Portland. It’s a camp that has grown significantly in recent months, but it's mostly been ignored by city and county authorities. Today, Multnomah County deputies and inmate work crews were out sweeping the homeless out of the camps and cleaning up the trash left behind.

The homeless camp at Southwest 14th and Taylor is also, by no coincidence, the exact location for the conclusion of the Starlight and Grand Floral parades, to be held this weekend and next weekend.

It also sits just a few yards from Lincoln High School and neighbors say they’ve been trying to get Portland police to do something about it for months. Neighbors have complained, car break-ins have increased in the area and yet nothing seemed to get done. But now, neighbors say, its parade time.

“It's not even 50 yards from the school and now because the parade is coming through, OK, now it’s time to come, push it off because the cameras are going to be here, all the outsiders are going to be in Portland," said John, who asked to be identified by his first name only. "Well, downtown Portland, the citizens of Portland are sick of the real problem.”

John lives in an apartment building across from the homeless camp. He says he’s disappointed that the only response to the homeless camp seems to happen at Rose Festival time. A time, he says, when the homeless camps will make the city look bad.

“We’ve mentioned several times to police that this is a problem. They claim there is nothing they can do, their hands are tied. It’s been an open drug market here, we watch people come in and trade all day long, bring merchandise and leave with something else. Very open,” he said.

Homeless campers say they’re not surprised. Angela, who didn't want her last name used, has been camping there for months, but understands when the city needs to put itself in a positive light, the homeless camps get temporarily swept.

“When the festival comes, you know, they anticipate tourists coming, and they want things to look nice,” she said.

For John, he says it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with year-round, not just when it’s a public relations problem for the City. And the problems, he says, are many.

“Plenty of it, plenty of it. Needles, needle caps, baggies, drugs, you name it we've seen it. I've had a knife pulled on me in front of this place,” he said.

The Rose Festival Starlight parade is Saturday and it concludes at the location of the homeless camp, at 14th and Taylor. The Grand Floral parade is the following weekend, and also concludes at that location.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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