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‘We're done with Portland’: Some residents move away over what they say is the city's lack of response to homeless camps

Portland officials say the city received 3,140 new campsite reports last week, and 1,180 of them were for camps along Southeast Powell Boulevard.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland’s Rapid Response Bio-Clean team worked for hours to clear out a large homeless camp at Southeast 80th Avenue and Rhine Street Monday morning — one that nearby residents said they'd reported to the city hundreds of times throughout summer, without much success.

"At 8 o'clock in the morning there are folks that are smoking meth, they're shooting up, there's domestic violence. It's absolutely absurd," said Nathan Lamb.

Lamb said he's lived in the neighborhood for six years, and his 6-year-old son with a disability just started school again and couldn’t safely access his school bus due to the camps.

"A couple of times we had to come out with slumped over individuals and say, 'Hey! My son's handicap bus is coming in about five minutes, can you please move along?'" he said.

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Lamb said he was shocked at how long it took the city to address the neighbors' concerns. 

"It’s absolutely remarkable that no one responds," he said. "No one seems to care. Obviously, we feel that these individuals get more rights than we do."

Despite the cleanup, Lamb and other neighbors said they're just waiting for the day a new set of homeless campers move in.

"I'm not going to hold my breath," said Rebecca Philip, who lives three doors down from Lamb. "We're done with Portland."

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Philip said she and her husband are moving to Washington next month because of the camps, and watching the camps get cleared Monday morning didn't change her mind.

"Our number one reason is because of the homeless. We’re sick of it," she said. "We've had many camps moved out of here and as soon as they clear them out, they move right back in."

One of the people who camps along Rhine Street, Medina Dawan, said she felt bad for the neighbors, and agreed that litter at the campsite was regrettable.

"We're human too. We're just on hard times right now," she said.

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But, she added, watching the city clear the site didn't give the campers much incentive to leave the area or go to a shelter. 

"It's like, thank you for cleaning up the tampons and the f***g booty juice and stuff that's on the ground, we appreciate that," she said, "but two seconds later all that s*** about to be back on the f***g ground because we don't have a place to stay. We're on drugs and that's just what it is."

Officials said the city received 3,140 new campsite reports last week, and 1,180 of them were along Southeast Powell Boulevard, which runs by about a block away from the Southeast Rhine camp. Staff cleaned 14 camps and removed 64.

"If you move someone away from the situation, you got to give them a solution," said Dawan. "There's a problem, but what do you do to solve it?"

Cleanup staff offer campers free transportation to a shelter and a place to store their things, according to city officials, but it's up to individual residents to decide whether they want to accept the help.

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