Homeless camp cleanup priorities confuse campers

George Dennis Smith says he hears conflicting information about where it's OK to camp

Homeless people in Portland (KOIN 6 News, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With homeless camps continuing to pop up all around the city, the problem doesn’t seem to be getting better.

There is a camp near 92nd and SW Powell with people living under tarps and in tents, some out in the open. George Dennis Smith and his wife are among them.

They’ve been on the street for a few years and say it’s frustrating dealing with inconsistent guidelines from the city regarding homeless camping.

Smith says one day someone from the city tells them it’s OK to be on a piece of land and the next day, cleanup crews come and start kicking their belongings around and tell them to leave.

City officials say they prioritize camp cleanup based on whether there is illegal activity, its proximity to sensitive locations like schools and the size of the camp, according to a spokesperson from the Mayor’s office.

Those guidelines don’t help people like Smith understand. They say it’s a result of poor planning and not seeing the big picture. He does admit that the city is trying new things to see what will work, and that’s how solutions are found.

“Just like Edison said when he invented the light bulb,” Smith said. “They said ‘dude you tried this like a thousand times and you messed up, how does it feel to know you failed a thousand times?’ He says “I didn’t fail a thousand times’ he says ‘I just learned a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.'”

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