PORTLAND, Ore. - Neighbors in North Portland's Overlook neighborhood attended a Tuesday night meeting with a lot of questions for Ted Wheeler about the Hazelnut Grove homeless camp.
People living in the camp said it's changed their lives. They are no longer in tents. They’re in tiny homes, many of which are equipped with solar panels.
But Overlook homeowners say the camp near North Interstate and Greeley avenues is an eyesore and a fire hazard, and they had no say in the matter.
“Please be done with this. We do not want Hazelnut Grove here,” said a woman at the meeting.
Months of frustration have bubbled to the surface. Neighbors say Hazelnut Grove was supposed to be temporary and last for a year.
“Here we are 18 months plus and the camp is still going,” one man said.
Neighbors say Hazelnut Grove, with all its wooden structures, is a fire hazard. They said if the hillside went up in the flames, homes would be at risk. With all the wet weather we've had, they're also concerned about the risk of a landslide.
“Are you willing to keep the city's promise and close this camp? Because nothing would reward the patience of this neighborhood more than to tell us right now, to tell us a closing date for this camp,” a man asked as others around him clapped.
To that question, Wheeler asked for a show of hands.
“How many people would like this camp to be closed right now,” Wheeler asked. A number of hands went up in the air.
Wheeler said he's heard from both sides and people are divided on the issue. But for many at the meeting, what adds to the frustration is the lack of community input from the beginning.
“This homeless camp was forced down our throats. I'm a compassionate person as well but when we don’t have a chance to speak to that, you lose trust,” said a man who has lived in the neighborhood for 18 years.
“As far as I can tell the city just walked away. You were not well served and I apologize,” said Wheeler.
But for some of the people at the neighborhood meeting, an apology is one thing. Action is another.
People with the Overlook Neighborhood Association said they like the tiny house homeless village in the Kenton Neighborhood, mainly because they say it's a good model and the community got to vote on it.
The Overlook association said in the future they may be open to a formal vote on whether or not to keep Hazelnut Grove where it is. But first they would want a guarantee that the city will listen.
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