PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A homeless camp in Portland’s Overlook neighborhood has nearly doubled in size within the last 2 weeks.
Now some residents and local police say they’re worried it may become harder to enforce rules as the growth continues.
“Clearly we want to keep an eye on it,” Portland Police Bureau Assistant Chief Robert Day said.
The original Hazelnut Grove camp off N Greeley Avenue housed about 25 people. But as more people moved in, the community expanded beyond its original boundaries.
Clayton Dennis, one of the original members of the camp, says it recently separated into 2 communities. Now, he says, they’re trying to set up a third one.
But Assistant Chief Day warned that as the camp continues to grow, members’ ability to enforce “self regulation rules” will become more of a challenge.
“I’m not sure they are able to manage or influence people on the other side of the fence, which could be concerning,” he said.
Local homeowners have expressed concerns about an increase in theft and crime in the area following the pattern of growth at Hazelnut Grove.
Joseph Alpert, Mayor Charlie Hales’ Chief of Staff, says while the city could limit the size of the camp, their focus is better placed elsewhere.
“We are more focused on… things like codes of conduct that are enforced,” Alpert told KOIN 6 News. “Having organization makes it easier to accommodate more people temporarily.”
The homeless community off N Greeley Avenue has been a hot topic among city leaders in recent months.
Mayor Hales’ office previously said the city was working with the Oregon Department of Transportation, which owns much of the camp’s land, to delay plans to evict the homeless residents.
Since then, the camp has only continued to grow. Now Alpert says the city must be “realistic” that these people will continue to sleep outside, at least for now.
“We believe that it’s better all-around to have people complying with some basic rules and sleeping in a community that looks out for each other, rather than alone sleeping in doorways and randomly in neighborhoods,” he said.
Police maintain that the camp’s growth is concerning, and rules will only be tougher to enforce as more people move in.
Growth at Hazelnut Grove and other local homeless camps will likely continue until the city secures adequate space for them indoors.
The Overlook Neighborhood Association sent the following letter to Portland city leaders on Thursday: