PORTLAND, Ore. — As plans move forward to set up a homeless village on St. Johns Christian Church property, illegal campers have moved in and are refusing to leave.
Neighbors against the village say this is exactly what they were worried about.
Nothing has been finalized, but plans are still in the works to move people from the Hazelnut Grove Camp, near North Interstate and Greeley, to a brand new village that would be built on the property of St. Johns Christian Church. If that happens, construction could begin as early as September. It would include pod-like structures with bathroom facilities and a kitchen.
But this week a group of people set up camp on the property. Lattrice Holloway is part that group and said they moved to the church property after their last camp was shutdown.
“I understand the neighbors are furious, but at the same time they don't understand the struggle,” Holloway explained.
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Several neighbors said this is their worst fear realized and it's why they are against the homeless village.
“That's exactly what we were afraid would happen with putting the village in, is that unsanctioned camps would come from all over,” explained Alison Klossner, who lives nearby.
Seeing tents line the property, is not making neighbors like Klossner feel any better about the village idea.
“Now that our most prominent fear has taken place before they've even moved in, I just don't think it's workable,” Klossner said. “I think they need to find a different location.
However, the church and the Joint Office of Homeless Services said this illegal camp is completely different from what they are trying to do with the village. Both are working to remove the campers.
“This is a different situation altogether,” explained David Libby, the Senior Pastor at St. Johns Christian Church. “This is a protest group, this isn't just campers showing up because they feel like this is free reign, so this is a different kind of situation and we're working on resolving that situation right now.”
Organizers said illegal camping would not be allowed in or around the proposed village.
“We're not going to let folks camp on the property when the village is here, and the church isn't letting that happen now while we're working on getting a good village in place,” explained Denis Theriault with the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
Holloway said the group has no plans to leave and are calling their camp "Jason Barns Village" in honor of their friend who was killed.
“We're taking a stand and it's like, we don't have nowhere else to go,” Holloway explained.
Crews are trying to connect the campers with shelter and services. They will not be allowed to stay on church property.