PORTLAND, Ore. — Tents and piles of garbage covered the streets around the Metropolitan Learning Center in Northwest Portland on Sunday morning. While children played in the school's playground about 100 feet away, police responded to reports of a man who had just overdosed on fentanyl.
Shortly after, sobs and cries echoed from the nearby homeless camp on Northwest Hoyt Street as campers there learned that their friend had just passed away.
This area near the Metropolitan Learning Center is one of many where Mayor Ted Wheeler banned homeless camps about two weeks ago, part of an emergency declaration designed to keep the camps away from schools and children.
However, many of the campers in this area told KGW that they don’t have any intention of leaving despite the city’s orders.
“I’m just keeping my tent here for protesting reasons,” said Joseph Reandeau, whose tent is on the corner of Northwest Hoyt and 19th Avenue. It was posted for removal on September 1, since it’s within 150 feet of a school.
“It said that this is an illegal campsite and that there are plenty of shelters that you can go to,” Reandeau said, but they insisted that they would rather stay on the streets than in a shelter.
“I don’t feel very safe staying there because some of the people that room there make me and my partner uncomfortable so we would rather stay in a tent,” Reandeau said, referring to the shelter indicated by the city's posting.
They said that they are currently on a waitlist for a housing voucher. Until then, they plan to stay on Northwest Hoyt Street in spite of the city’s orders.
“I could move my tent today if I wanted to, but it’s more of just a moral thing — I want to protest for a few days. I believe that our city and our government should give us more resources,” they said.
For other homeless people on the street, they find the ban on camping confusing.
“They’re telling people to move,” one man experiencing homelessness said. “They’re not banning it, they’re just telling people to move from here to here and not giving people nowhere to go.”
“They keep saying they’ll clean it up and it’s still sitting here — all the junk, I mean. It’s been weeks,” said Michelle Scott, who lives across the street from the Metropolitan Learning Center. She walks the neighborhood five times a day.
Scott said she's trying to break her lease due to the camps.
“They walk around, and they pee and poop wherever they want to, they have their pants down. I don’t understand how they can have this around children.”
She said the campsites have gotten worse since the start of the school year, despite city crews attempting to move them.
“They have come through a few times to clear it up, and an hour and a half later we get as many if not even more,” she said.
“It’s just a huge thing to address,” added Heather Begaetz, who frequents the Metropolitan Learning Center's playground with her daughter. “How are we humanely addressing it? When the city just does sweeps it’s kind of just displacing people without really addressing the core issue.”
“I understand it," said Reandeau. "I know that some people that stay on the streets can be sketchy and some people do hard drugs and there are some people that live on the streets that can be sexual predators so I understand their concern ... but people like me are just trying to find a place to stay until we can get resources."
The city has identified and cleared dozens of campsites near schools thus far, and officials tell KGW that the list will just continue to grow. If there are repeat campers, they repost the site for removal and encourage people to report the campsites near schools through PDX reporter.