PORTLAND, Ore. — Tents and trash covered the sidewalks around the Metropolitan Learning Center in Northwest Portland Tuesday morning. A woman experiencing homelessness sat screaming on the sidewalk while children played behind her in Couch Park.
“It's out of hand,” said Marti Reynolds who has two children in Portland schools. “We need some change. We need our city government to make some serious changes so Portland can go back to what it used to be.”
Her children walk to school and Reynolds said they were once chased by a man experiencing homelessness.
“It’s dangerous,” she said. “We can't have these people around our children. They’re too unpredictable.”
Last week, Mayor Ted Wheeler expanded an Emergency Declaration to prohibit camping on key walking routes to K-12 schools. Portland Public Schools start on August 30 and dozens of campsites near schools are now posted for removal.
“I think it's a great idea,” said Jason Torres who lives in Northwest Portland. “I think it eliminates a lot of the concern for not just parents but for people living in the neighborhood as well.”
They're notifying the campers 72 hours to 10 days ahead of the planned cleanup and offering them free transportation to a shelter bed along with free storage for their things. The city is prioritizing the camps near elementary and middle schools. Last week they removed camps near Cleveland High School, Parkrose High School and Childpeace Montessori school.
“It’s creating problems in a lot of neighborhoods,” Rob, who has been living in Portland, said of the homeless camps. He often goes to Couch Park next to the Metropolitan Learning Center.
“There's tents all over the place, which in itself is problematic, and I’ve also seen people here using drugs openly, using drugs in the middle of the day even when school's in session at the school right next door.”
The mayor's office told KGW the city's Impact Reduction Program will remove the camps near schools and give them no right of return. Camps that return to cleared locations are addressed on a case-by-case basis. If someone does return, or new campers take their place, the site will be posted for removal again. However, some Portlanders aren’t convinced this will work.
“I don't have a lot of confidence in that just because I see other areas that they clear, and people see it as a big victory and then its refilled and back up and running again,” said Rob.
“I don't think that they're going to be able to maintain the ban on camping,” added Torres. “I don't think that they're able to maintain anything that they implement.”
As for those living on the streets waiting to pack up and move, they understand the new rules, but don't have a plan as to where they'll go next.
“Homeless people don't need to be around schools when schools are in session. Period,” said Sheila who has been living on the streets for six years. On Monday, she put her tent on the corner of Northwest Hoyt Street and 20th Avenue, which is one of the routes the city plans to clear.
“I'm going to take it down…I'll obey the laws as far as that goes, most definitely,” she said.
“We don't need all this trash,” added Paul who is also experiencing homelessness and living near the Metropolitan Learning Center. “We don't need all these dirty needles and we don't need all these people tweaking out.”
The mayor’s office told KGW that they have received numerous complaints about camping along walking routes to schools. They ask anyone who sees a camp blocking access to schools to report it through PDX reporter or by calling 311. While they are prioritizing camp cleanup around schools, they are continuing to clean and remove camps reported to them in other parts of the city.