Portland braces for summer surge in homelessness

City, homeless advocates met Monday to discuss plans for summer

The city is bracing for a surge in homelessness as the warmer months approach. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland is already experiencing a homeless crisis, and in a few months even more people are expected to be living on city streets.

The city says it happens every summer: more people come to Portland for a few warm months.

This year there’s not only concerns for those who live by homeless camps, but for many people who are already homeless themselves.

Joe Bennie tells KOIN 6 News he has been living on Portland streets since 2011. Today, he calls Hazelnut Grove on Greeley Avenue just off Interstate Avenue home.

A homeless camp in Portland's Overlook neighborhood has nearly doubled in size in early December 2015. (KOIN)
A homeless camp in Portland’s Overlook neighborhood has nearly doubled in size in early December 2015. (KOIN)

“A lot of people come this way,” Bennie noted. “There’s a lot of people that live in the traveling mode, like gypsies, and they travel with the weather.”

Portland’s Livability Project Manager Chad Stover says those who come to the city over summer tend to find themselves getting into more trouble than others.

City agencies and homeless advocates met Monday to come up with solutions.

“We learned some lessons the last couple of years,” Stover said. “We need to work with partner organizations like Downtown Clean and Safe, work with police. They’ll increase their walking beats so they’re out and about interacting with people.”

But even after Monday’s meeting, some locals say the city is leaving them in the dark.

“The mayor’s office has taken a ‘go it alone’ approach,” Chris Trejbal of the Overlook neighborhood said. “Our biggest concern has been the lack of communication and engagement from city hall with the community on solving this problem.”

Stover denies Trejbal’s claims, saying the city can’t face its homeless problem alone.

As for Bennie and the thousands of others who call Portland’s city streets home year-round — rain or shine — there’s still plenty to worry about.

“It’s already tough getting services to the people who live here,” Bennie said. “So when you get a lot of people coming in it just makes it that much harder.”

As the city prepares for a spike in street dwellers as summer approaches, Mayor Charlie Hales is also dealing with a lawsuit over his homeless policies.

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