PORTLAND, Ore. — A homeless woman crawls out from underneath a pile of tarps and cardboard boxes. It’s what’s left of her shelter after her trailer was ruined in a fire earlier this week.
"I lost everything. I’m literally living under a cardboard box," said Rose who’s been homeless in Portland for five years.
Rose camps along outer Northeast Sandy Boulevard and 96th Avenue, a homeless encampment that has been causing chaos for neighbors as well as a nearby motel and restaurant.
"I see drugs being bought and paid for, hookers, you name it .. see it all," said one neighbor.
"I don’t feel that it’s safe for my employees or my customers," said Vivian Lanegan, owner of the restaurant Jim Dandy. She's been open for business for 38 years.
Lanegan now closes early because of the encampment and said some of the homeless people put tents on her property.
"We try to keep our property nice, and they feed the rats," said Cindy New, the manager at the Econolodge. She said she's lost customers because of the homeless people on the street.
"Now they want their money back because they don’t feel comfortable here," New said.
When the camp went up in flames a few days ago, that was the final straw for everyone involved, including Rose, who lost some of her most valuable belongings, like a wedding dress she was saving for when her boyfriend got out of prison.
"It was perfect," she said, holding it up through tears. "I put it in a storage bag and kept it for when he got out and now it’s gone. Now it’s destroyed."
Before the fire, Portland Bureau of Transportation posted her site for removal, but she told KGW they didn’t offer her a safe place to go.
“"When they give us things like sleeping bags or tents, they’re giving us things that they think we need instead of what we actually need," Rose said.
"I just feel the way the system is now it’s just not working for these people, and I have empathy for them they just don’t have the resources," said Lanegan, who hasn't had any luck getting the city to respond or help her with the camp's impact to her business.
One thing both the business owners and the homeless people agree on is Mayor Ted Wheeler’s idea for six designated camping sites positioned throughout the city. There the mayor said homeless people would be connected with case managers to help get them into treatment or permanent housing.
Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office responded to this report with the following statement:
“We're looking at past outreach examples to inform how we introduce the Mayor's Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites. Our approach is to meet with the neighborhoods where the sites will be located before alerting the media/general public. We want to get the community's input and provide an opportunity to answer questions, meet the service provider, develop a good neighbor agreement etc. We are putting together outreach teams now and outreach will begin shortly.”