PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As weather clears up people are getting out and hitting the trails, enjoying the beautiful Oregon scenery, but in some areas, homeless encampments are endangering the delicate ecosystem.
Along the Sandy River, at what locals call the Thousand Acres Park, the amount of trash left behind has become so bad that the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office is stepping in to get it cleaned up.
For 6 hours on Friday, members of the Homeless Outreach and Programs Engagement team and inmate work crews cleared trash from the area where several homeless people have been camping.
“We have a responsibility that when we start cleaning up these camps to make sure they are completely cleaned up,” Sgt. Bryan White said. “It has environmental impacts, the trash that gets left behind, things that drain into the river — it’s very close to the Sandy River and the Columbia River — and that’s a sensitive ecosystem we want to take care of.”
Along with a 40-yard dumpster’s worth of trash, deputies found a dog chained to a tree all alone.
“It was a frigging mess out there,” said Jennifer Cullen, who lives in the encampment in the area occasionally. She agrees that a massive clean up was necessary after some people ruined the sanctuary.
“I really hope that the people understand the reason they are getting kicked out,” Cullen said, “probably is because of that mess.”
The problem has gotten out of control in recent months, most notably after the Springwater Corridor sweep.
“We did see an exodus of folks,” White said. “They had to go somewhere.”
Deputies realize those campers don’t necessarily have anywhere else to go, but rather than telling them to move along, they’re helping find a more suitable place to live.
“Our approach is not to go in and sneak up on these people and kick them out,” White said. “We understand that if they are being removed from a certain area they need to have some options somewhere else.”