PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — “Not pretty.”
That was Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ first response to a KOIN 6 News video showing homeless campers in front of City Hall passing a pipe and drinking out of beer cans.
“I haven’t seen people lighting up as you did, but I certainly see behavior that’s not OK, pretty obnoxious, in fact. We’ve had some of our staff harassed on their way in and out of the building,” Hales said.
Over the past few weeks, KOIN 6 News was told the campers have grown from about a dozen to more than 40.
The mayor, who also is the police commissioner, said police will respond when a crime is committed.
“When we see there’s a crime on the sidewalk, someone will send a police officer here or anywhere else, I hope,” he said. “And we’ll arrest people that are committing crimes — whether it’s assault, which we’ve had a couple of this week.”
The city does have an ordinance that prevents people from obstructing the sidewalk, but it still allows campers to sit or lie down on the sidewalk as long as there’s a path for pedestrians to get by. KOIN 6 News video saw drivers who parked in front of City hall had to step over people, sleeping bags and suitcases.
“Frankly,” Hales said, “[the ordinance is] not working very well.”
But as long as there is a path to walk along the sidewalk, the campers are in legal compliance.
“This is not OK,” the mayor told KOIN 6 News. “It’s not OK for the area of a public building to be, kind of, the Wild West.”