PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Homeless campers in Southeast Portland stayed put Tuesday night after officials with the Oregon Department of Transportation asked them to vacate the property earlier in the day.
The group of campers near SE Holgate Boulevard and I-205 has until January 4 to clear out.
“They were asked to leave today,” Don Hamilton with ODOT said. “ODOT is not a law enforcement agency and doesn’t have the authority to remove anybody, but we can ask them to leave and that’s what we did today.”
For now, ODOT is leaving the campers alone.
“A whole bunch of people from the community came up here and told ODOT that they were going to have to call the police because they’re not going to make these people leave,” homeless camper Belden Dewing said.
The camp is one of many spots across the city where homeless campers are facing eviction. It’s a contentious topic among city leaders who are working to deal with the issue of homelessness.
ODOT visited the camp on the same day mayoral candidate Ted Wheeler turned in his paperwork to run for office.
Wheeler is promising to tackle the city’s homeless problem head-on if elected.
“At best, homeless camps are a short term band-aid solution,” he told KOIN 6 News. “What we gotta do is get people indoors where it’s dry, particularly these families with kids.”
Mayor Charlie Hales says homeless numbers in Portland haven’t necessarily risen in the last 2 years, they’re just more visible with tarps and tents replacing cardboard and sleeping bags.
But Wheeler has a different viewpoint.
“I actually am convinced that the homelessness situation has gotten worse,” he said.
Wheeler says he sees a growing problem. On his campaign platform there is an initiative to eventually ensure an emergency shelter bed for every person sleeping on the streets.
It’s something Dewing says “would be so nice.”
The camp at SE Holgate Boulevard and I-205 is ODOT land, and the agency says it’s inherently unsafe to stay there. The agency plans to take further action by next Monday.