Clothesline goes up in Schrunk Plaza

Days after federal officials closed Terry Shrunk Plaza in downtown Portland for routine cleaning, homeless people returned and set up camp, Sept. 3, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Days after federal officials closed Terry D. Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland for routine cleaning, homeless people returned and set up camp, Sept. 3, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Less than a week after federal authorities cleaned and reopened downtown’s Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, the campers are back.

The garbage, shopping carts and clothes are already piling up at the outdoor plaza Tuesday, just after the feds spent $10,000 to clean it up. At some point in the past 24 hours, the people living in the plaza even put up a clothesline.

“I think it looks awful,” said Pete Osborne, a man who works downtown.

And people working and living downtown are also fed up.

“Makes the city less livable,” he continued.

Days after federal officials closed Terry Shrunk Plaza in downtown Portland for routine cleaning, homeless people returned and set up camp, Sept. 3, 2013 (KOIN 6 News/Bill Cortez)

Days after federal officials closed Terry D. Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland for routine cleaning, homeless people returned and set up camp, Sept. 3, 2013. (KOIN 6 News, Bill Cortez)

Those living downtown also are sick of the constant problems coming from the campers.

“I think they are giving a bad reputation to people who are really out there trying,” said Susan Greening, a woman who lives downtown.

The protestors have the legal right to have tents in the plaza during open hours, as long as they have a sign in front of those tents indicating they are protesting a cause. But most on the tents were sign free — and as of late Tuesday afternoon no federal officers could be seen patrolling to enforce the rules.

Many worry about the damage being done in the meantime.

Days after federal officials closed Terry Shrunk Plaza in downtown Portland for routine cleaning, homeless people returned and set up camp, Sept. 3, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

Terry D. Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland Sept. 3, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

“It’s a tremendous waste of resources to have to continuously come in and clean up and repair,” Osborne said.

The plaza was shut down the week prior for “scheduled annual” maintenance. Federal agents cleared campers from downtown Portland’s Terry Schrunk Plaza Aug. 20 to begin the project and clean the grounds. The maintenance project was scheduled to run through Aug. 28 — but just days later the federally managed plaza looks much like it did before.

The plaza maintenance came after many of those campers were kicked off the sidewalk in front of nearby Portland City Hall. Many moved to the plaza for what they assumed would be federal protection. That plan fell apart on Aug. 14.

6-26-13-doma celebration-justin beach

FILE – Supporters of same-sex marriage gather in downtown Portland’s Terry Schrunk Park to celebrate a June 26, 2013, Supreme Court decision that extends federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. (KOIN 6 News, Justin Beach)

On Saturday, Aug. 31, nearby Chapman Square was shut down indefinitely — after two park workers were threatened by protestors. One reportedly was spit on, another reportedly was called a racial slur.

“I think a lot of people are just using it as an excuse,” Greening said. “They want to do what they want to do.”

It’s now to the point where people wonder what the campers are even protesting.

“I’ve talked to some of these people,” Greening said. “They don’t even know why they’re there.”

And those living and working in downtown say they want the parks back.

“It detracts from the city, from the people’s ability to use the parks,” Osborne said.

Chapman Square won’t be reopened until police and the parks commissioner come up with a plan that helps them address safety and security concerns. The fate of the clothesline and other camping activity at Terry D. Schrunk Plaza is still up in the air.

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