Are Portland homeless sweeps worth the cost?

Residents complain campers move right back in after cleanups

A worker cleaning up a Portland homeless camp, November 7, 2016 (KOIN)
A worker cleaning up a Portland homeless camp, November 7, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the City of Portland continues to clean up homeless camp, neighbors in the affected areas are wondering if the efforts are worth the costs if campers are allowed to move right back in.

In Northeast Portland, residents said they had requested a clean up for months, and it finally happened late last week. But when the campers moved back in, residents called police to ask for continued enforcement. Neighbors said they were told nothing could be done.

A notice posted along the Springwater Corridor during a sweep of the homeless campers, September 1, 2016 (KOIN)
A notice posted along the Springwater Corridor during a sweep of the homeless campers, September 1, 2016 (KOIN)

“They say, ‘we’re sorry, there’s nothing we can do unless we see them committing a crime,'” Randy Sprague said. “There’s nothing we can do, they can stay.”

One woman who spoke with KOIN 6 News on Monday said the clean up is a waste of money if no follow-up enforcement is done.

“What about our rights?” Debra Brocato asked. “We’re paying all these taxes to pay for all this cleanup and to call the police when they can’t do anything about it.”

The city never said it would be able to make the issue of homelessness go away, but its main focus has been disbanding larger camps. Chad Stover with Mayor Charlie Hales’ office previously said, if they can “get camps down to 6 people or fewer, that seems to be more of a low impact situation.”

From July-October, the city spent at least $54,000 on neighborhood cleanups. That’s an average of $3,100 per week, but that total is without the Springwater Corridor cleanup costs and other yet-to-be-paid expenses factored in.

They’re costs the city has long said are worth it, if successful in disbanding large groups of campers that have infiltrated many local neighborhoods.

Still, many residents think the efforts haven’t accomplished enough.

“It was great,” Sprague said. “For a day.”

Last fiscal year the city spent more than $220,000 on neighborhood cleanups.