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Portland focusing clean up efforts ahead of NCAA tournament games

On the drive from PDX into the city's center, travelers will get a dose of what Portlanders see almost daily: campsites, garbage and graffiti.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Thousand of visitors are expected to flood Portland for March Madness events this week, and after years of challenges, some wonder how the city will put its best foot forward.

On the drive from PDX, down I-205 to I-84 into the city's center, travelers will likely get a dose of what Portlanders see almost daily: roadside campsites, graffiti, piles of garbage and biohazards.

A spokesperson for the city of Portland responded to KGW Tuesday saying, in preparation for the influx of visitors, the Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program shifted the order of some projects. 

It updates information about specific camp cleanups weekly online.

This past week's update showed that the Impact Reduction team:

  • Received 1,088 new campsite reports, including 117 reports of people living in vehicles
  • Observed about 347 active campsites, accounting for duplicate reports about the same locations
  • Assessed about 513 campsites, engaging with people living there, collecting garbage and biohazardous materials and coordinating with service providers
  • Cleaned 13 campsites, removing garbage and biohazardous materials
  • Removed 17 campsites that posed a risk to health and safety

Portland's contracted Rapid Response Team was also out cleaning sites Tuesday. A crew cleared garbage, furniture and biohazards from a corner of NE Lloyd Boulevard and Grand Avenue, blocks away from the Convention and Moda Centers.

RELATED: March Madness games are coming to Portland

"I see a lot of crime," said Jose Federico Rivera, who has run J Cafe in the neighborhood for about 15 years. "The city used to be one of the beautiful cities."

He said he now sees growing issues of houselessness and people in mental health crises.

"Yelling at you, yelling at customers," Federico Rivera described.

He added that violent crime has grown significantly in the last few years, and out-of-town visitors to the Convention and Moda Centers notice.

"First question they ask is is it safe to walk?" he said.

Although the city cannot solve these ongoing problems in a matter of days, it is working on cleaning up its image ahead of the NCAA tournament.

SOLVE, a nonprofit that helps organize cleanup events, said it is taking city suggestions to add to its planned Wednesday cleanup. Volunteers will prioritize areas around Old Town and the Steel Bridge, where some visitors are expected to travel.

"I feel like it's been kind of the same over the last couple months," said Daniel Dyre, who works near the Moda Center. 

Dyre said while he has not seen drastic changes in neighborhood conditions, he knows these events and travelers are needed.

"If we have an influx of people, it will be good for businesses, that's for sure," Dyre said.

"We do need their support, and we do need them to feel safe," Federico Rivera added, saying city leaders should do more. "Portland needs to show a little better what it is...I'm hoping we get our city back together soon."

RELATED: Portland hotels are hoping for big crowds for NCAA tournament this week

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