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City removes certain homeless camps along NE 33rd & Marine Drive

Homeless camps along Northeast 33rd Drive are one of the city’s top three “highest priority projects,” city officials said in response to a request for comment.

PORTLAND, Ore — The loud grind of bulldozers pushing trash from homeless camps made it hard to hear along one section of Northeast 33rd Drive on Tuesday morning. To those driving by, it may have sounded like routine road work — but to those living along the roadway, it was the sound of time running out.

"A little bit of notice could’ve been helpful," said Al, who watched as city bulldozers piled someone else’s trash into the front of his trailer. "These guys are just throwing trash all the way down there and just bringing it all the way up to my trailer like it's mine."

Al was home from work on his lunch break when he was told by city crews that he had one day to move his trailer before they would have it towed.

"They just spring on me this morning that I got to move my trailer and I have no way of doing that," he said.

Al was just the latest of those forced to move along Northeast 33rd Drive this week.

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"Yesterday was the day that they forced us to move," said Devon, who lives with his friends in an RV now parked on the other side of the street.

This is the second time that Portland's Bureau of Transportation has moved Devon and his friends in the past six months, he said.

"They told us that there was about, I’d say, five trailers that needed to be moved and they only gave us four days' notice. Not very much notice at all especially when we don’t have a truck. We had to find somebody to come move our trailer for us," said Sarah, who lives with Devon. 

She described their grueling moving process that lasted them 24 hours.

"That’s my home. You were going to take my home. I was not going to have anywhere to stay after that," Sarah said.

The city’s Street Services Coordination Center told KGW in an email, "PBOT and the Street Services Coordination Center have performed several site visits of NE 33rd and Marine Drive. It is one of our three highest priority projects."

PBOT crews on scene told KGW Tuesday that they were clearing camps that were on PBOT property and installing concrete blocks to deter more campers.

According to Bryan Aptekar, Safe Rest Villages project communications liaison for Commissioner Dan Ryan's office, PBOT's work this week has a more specific purpose — a new Safe Rest Village is opening nearby, so they're moving some of their maintenance operations to a lot off Northeast 33rd Drive. The lot is currently blocked by these homeless camps, Aptekar said.

Campers were asked to move last week and again on Monday, according to Aptekar. PBOT parking enforcement and police are removing the camps blocking the entrance to that new property.

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Those who live on this strip said that they want more than anything to get out of this cycle.

"It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good," said Lori Girtz.

"It’s due to the fact that I have no resources that I’m forced to be out here," Devon explained.

A lack of resources is one reason, but many have another struggle in common.

"Drug use, honestly that’s due to my own issues," Devon said.

"It’s largely due to my drug use," Girtz said.

"You can’t get a break," added Edward Shulikov, another one of the campers. "I mean we’re not having fun over here, at least I’m not, but people assume that we're having a blast over here camping."

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