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As other areas are cleared, Laurelhurst Park homeless camp grows again

The city posted eviction notices around the park on Friday morning as neighbors again voiced concerns about the encampment.

PORTLAND, Ore. — About eight months after crews contracted by the city of Portland cleared a long-standing homeless camp around Laurelhurst Park, the encampment has all but returned to its former footprint.

KGW met Scott on Friday morning as he was cleaning the area outside of his tent at the edge of the Southeast Portland park.

"I've been here off and on probably over a year now," Scott said.

RELATED: After months of buildup, city of Portland moves in to clear homeless camp at Laurelhurst Park

In that year span, Scott said that he's had to move several times. August of 2021 was the last time that the city did a comprehensive sweep of the Laurelhurst camps, though officials say that crews are routinely in the area to remove trash and debris.

"I've been here three different times when they were clearing it," Scott said. "They keep running us off and we come right back."

Scott isn't alone. He's there with dozens of other campers, many of whom were likely evicted from a spot elsewhere in the city before returning here.

RELATED: 'Not really fixing anything': Dozens move from park to school after city of Portland clears homeless camp

Credit: KGW
Tents line the border of Laurelhurst Park in Southeast Portland. Scott, one of the homeless campers, wears an orange reflective vest as he cleans up outside of his tent.

"It's been kind of steady, but it got distinctly more in the last week," said Alan Comnes, who lives near the park. He wants the city to clear it again due to safety concerns.

"I'm fortunate enough to live near the park, but I walk through and I see the needles, I see people who are so strung out to they couldn't make it in a tent for the night," he said.

For Scott, the sweeps brought him here, and the sweeps made him leave the last time. He knows that there are neighbors who don't want him camped around the park, but he sees it as an improvement over camping right in front of someone's house.

"We're not all bad ... just like anybody else — some are good, some aren't," he said.

RELATED: Homeless camp near Portland school to be cleared before school year begins

The city of Portland is aware of the new camps at Laurelhurst. On Friday morning, staff from Rapid Response Bio Team — Portland's contracted street cleanup company — were on-site cleaning as workers posted lime green eviction notices, warning campers that they had 72 hours to pack up and leave.

"If that's all it is, they'll just come back," Comnes said.

Comnes thinks more needs to be done rather than just move campers — giving them a space to shelter where they can be safe and get services, whether at an indoor shelter or a place they can pitch a tent.

As Scott prepares to clear out his campsite again, he's not sure where he'll end up.

"Where else is there to go, that's just it, where else is there to go?" Scott said. "I don't know, I'm open to suggestions."

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