PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In a Tuesday Facebook post, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said he “recognizes the urgent public safety issues along the Springwater, and understands neighbors’ frustration.”
In a Wednesday interview with KOIN 6 News, the mayor said the city is working as fast as they can to address the requests for clean-up along the corridor.
The city has fulfilled 65 clean-up requests since late January. That’s a rate of about 11 per month. Hales said they don’t get filled faster because of the magnitude of the issue. “The homelessness problem is huge. It’s huge nationally and huge here, too.”
His priority is creating more shelter beds and said they’ve added hundreds of new ones this year.
But that doesn’t explain why the Springwater Corridor seems to be getting less safe for cyclists and others to use, especially east of I-205 all the way to Gresham.
One of the biggest single camps in Portland is near a city parks property called Beggars Tick Marsh, fronted on the east by SE 111th Street and on the south by the Springwater Trail.
Steven and Yasuko Garret walk through the area all the time.
“It’s horrendous that we don’t feel safe. Nobody feels safe that lives along the bike path because once they figure out where you are, then they actually sit and watch you,” Steven Garrett told KOIN 6 News on Tuesday. “We had them watch us on 122nd to see when we’re coming and going and that’s when they come in and get everything they want.”
The last clean up along the corridor only pushed the homeless campers east, toward where the Garretts live.
Hales said the city will “keep looking at areas where there’s particular conflicts between neighborhoods and folks that are homeless. And, of course, we do enforcement. Enforcement is part of the picture.”
The mayor said the city has also stepped up police patrols on ATVs, 4-wheelers through the area. They’ve added personnel to the evening and overnight shifts. More outreach workers are in the area, but added he’s concentrating on creating more shelter space.
A text message between Hales and Chief of Staff Josh Alpert in May showed them considering turning the first floor of City Hall into a homeless shelter.
Asked if that explained the desperation of the situation, Hales said, “Well, it’s very hard to finda place to open a shelter. It’s controversial every time we do it.”
He added they looked “at every building that the public owns.”
The mayor forcefully said it is not true the “hands off policy” makes it harder for police to deal with the homeless.
Below are text messages between Mayor Charlie Hales and staff in late May, obtained through a public records request by Lars Larson and KXL: