PORTLAND, Ore. -- Travel and consumer review sites often feature write-ups about the Rose City, but a post on Yelp may force out-of-towners to take a second look.
Published on Monday, the post gives "Portland Sidewalk Camping" five stars.
The user, S.P., writes, “Awesome! Best free sidewalk camping in the country, in my humble opinion. Salmon Street in downtown Portland even offers wonderful tent camping views of Mt. Hood and the Willamette River… And the best part is that it's all free!”
The post also includes picture of pictures of Portland’s longtime homeless camp Right 2 Dream Too and tents along the city’s East Bank.
Other users added their two cents with critiques like, “The sidewalks are busy but have less urine/feces than the average gas station bathroom. That was disconcerting, and made it hard to sleep,” and “Camp hosts seem to be spread thin; don't count on a formal welcome.”
One post, published Tuesday, gave Portland Sidewalk Camping four stars. The user wrote, in part, “I decided on a cozy spot on Washington and 10th. Deducting 1 star for the stabbing at 4AM.”
All of the reviewers, so far, appear to be from Portland, Vancouver and Newberg.
Directors at Travel Portland warned of increasing attention on Portland’s homeless crisis back in February, as the city’s peak tourism season approaches.
At the time, CEO Jeff Miller said of tourists, “They're frightened by some of what they see... drug use, blatantly on the streets, the very aggressive street behavior.”
The user behind the post is from Portland and wished not to be named. He said the post was intended to be shocking but sarcastic.
The goal, he said, was to remind Mayor Charlie Hales that people, tourists or not, take reviews or opinions on sites like Yelp seriously.
He says the Mayor needs to take a good, long look at how Portland looks, letting people, via its ‘Safe Sleep policy,’ camp on the city’s sidewalks.
Jeff Miller, CEO of Travel Portland, says the emails he gets regularly, however, are no laughing matter.
“A homeless individual just unzipped, whipped it out and started peeing, two feet from me on the sidewalk,” said Miller, Tuesday, as he read one such email.
Miller, who predicted tourists would become more vocal about Portland’s homeless problem back in February, says he and his staff used to get emails like that once a month.
Now, they get one to two every week.
They’re from tourists, who vow never to come back to Portland.
The senders cite scary run-ins with a homeless person or flat-out shock at the number of tents on the city’s sidewalks.
Miller says he forwards each and every email to Mayor Charlie Hales’ office.
“I think we have to decide as Portlanders and also politically are we going to allow our city to be taken over, and there are issues of homelessness, but it's the bad street behavior that scares people,” he said.
KGW reached out to Mayor Hales’ office about the post and its commentary on the city’s ‘Safe Sleep’ policy.
We received this statement, via email:
The City continues to implement the Safe Sleep Policy, removing structures from sidewalks and public spaces while simultaneously working to open more shelter beds (nearly 600 to date). This is an effort to have safe and livable streets for all Portlanders and visitors, while also treating people sleeping outside with humanity and compassion. We have made tremendous progress in a very short amount of time, and will continue to work diligently on implementation.