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Neighbors living near Laurelhurst Park turn to attorney for help clearing homeless camp

The attorney is urging the city to clear the encampment because the trees pose a threat to campers.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Mike Carulli has lived across the street from Laurelhurst Park for most of his life. He will be the first to say the area isn't as pleasant as it used to be, and he says the homeless camp along Southeast Oak Street is to blame.

"Personally, it's disgusting because I feel the majority of the people aren't homeless," Carulli said. "They're young, workable people who don't want to work."

It's a sentiment echoed by other neighbors, and they've turned to attorney John DiLorenzo for help. Late last month, DiLorenzo sent a letter to the city urging it to clear the camp along the street that separates the southeast playground area from the rest of the park.

Credit: Mike Benner, KGW staff
These trees are in Laurelhurst Park.

In addition to the camp posing a public health concern and blocking park access, DiLorenzo claims the trees are in bad shape — such bad shape, in fact, that the branches and limbs could fall and hurt or kill campers, he argued.

"If [the letter] works, that's great," Carulli said.

That's one way to look at it, but one of the Laurehurst Park campers, who asked to remain anonymous, denounced the letter simply a tactic to rid of the camp.

"I think that it is clearly not something they concocted out of compassion," the man said.

RELATED: ‘Make it clear for us’: Portland college student among group with disabilities suing city over tents on sidewalks

The man said he doesn't think neighbors hired an attorney to approach the city out of concern for campers. He believes they are taking action out of concern for themselves.

"It is an us-vs-them, tit-for-tat situation," the man said. "Honestly, what they want most of the time is to stir the pot to get someone out here to react."

A spokesperson for Portland Parks and Recreation told KGW a city arborist did go ahead and inspect the trees, and it was determined one should come down soon. Two others had problematic limbs that were removed as a precaution.

RELATED: Planters placed, later removed in Portland neighborhood where homeless camps were cleared

Further inspection could come later this week, and the city does have plans to clear the camp. Carulli said it can't come soon enough.

"I'm appalled at this, what we've come to," he said.

This is not the first time DiLorenzo has gone after the City of Portland on homelessness issues. In early September, he was part of a team of attorneys representing people with mobility disabilities in a lawsuit over homeless camps and debris blocking sidewalks. 

The plaintiffs argue that letting camps block the sidewalk violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they're asking a judge to make the city clear the sidewalks and make shelter space available for everyone who gets moved.

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