PORTLAND, Ore. — Five homeless camp sites in Forest Park received notices on Wednesday saying they aren’t allowed to camp or store personal belongings on city property.
The bright yellow notices have left people living at the sites flustered.
Those who call the park home don’t know when they need to be gone, or when they may come home to find their belongings removed. But the letter tells them to remove their property and clean up immediately. If they don’t, the city will act.
Aholloko Spiritwalker has been homeless for 10 years. She has lived in a secluded spot in Forest Park for two years. Spiritwalker said she, and another neighbor, work full-time jobs. That neighbor wrote a note on a paper bag saying, in par,: “I can't take the day off work today, I'll move my stuff tomorrow.”
Spiritwalker took the day off Thursday to rummage through and find her most prized possessions. She hauled about 100 pounds of her belongings across the St. Johns Bridge to store at a friend’s house.
"I'm still hoping to find a few things that are still missing. Some of them are pretty to me, some can just be let go,” Spiritwalker said.
While the city said this isn’t a sweep because there’s no deadline and it’s not punitive, Spiritwalker has gone through sweeps before and always ends up back on the streets.
“There is no other place for us to go. So they’re basically evicting us onto the streets,” she said.
Spiritwalker feels safer in the woods than on the streets.
"That’s why we're out here, so we don't get swept," she said.
Bob Dickey, a nomad, was surprised to come home to the notice.
“I’m a little bit concerned with losing all my equipment,” he said.
Some of the tent sites are a mess. Paper, trash and random items are littered on the forest floor.
A park ranger supervisor said after notices are posted, they’ll come out the next day to assess the situation. They try to make contact with people there and offer social services.
Those living here in tents or under tarps say they have nowhere else to go.
"I've been to the shelters before – literally dangerous,” Dickey said.
"They treat us like we’re not even human beings, not even worthy being alive, just for our predicament which oftentimes was not even any fault of our own,” Spiritwalker said.
If people don’t remove their belongings, the city will consider them abandoned and work to remove everything from the area. The park supervisor says one of two things will happen to all of their belongings: city contractors could come in, pick it up, and store their items. But if anything appears to be garbage, maintenance crews will throw it out.
As for Dickey, he plans to stay put.
"For the moment I think I'm going to stay up here and practice my constitutional rights. After all I did serve to protect that,” Dickey said, pointing to his hat from the Gulf War that said "Veteran."