Overlook Association chair demands camp leave

The Hazelnut Grove camp sits on city-owned land in North Portland's Overlook neighborhood. (Lyndsey Hewitt, The Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Saying that city officials, Village Coalition and Hazelnut Grove “effectively lied” to the Overlook Neighborhood Association during mediation efforts, neighborhood association chairman Chris Trejbal is again demanding movement of the longtime homeless encampment.

Trejbal, in an emailed press release sent on Thursday, accused the groups of concealing negotiations from the neighborhood with regards to the future of the village during a mediation process facilitated by the city.

Hazelnut Grove and Overlook have been working toward a Good Neighborhood Agreement for several months with little success.

The neighborhood was in the news just last month when the board looked to amend its bylaws to exclude people without a legal address from participating. The city said anyone residing in a neighborhood, whether they have a home or not, can participate. The neighborhood backed off when the city threatened to stop recognizing them as part of the neighborhood system.

(Village Coalition members say that they actually aren’t involved with the process, but only receive updates.)

“We had agreed, as a part of this mediation process, that both sides would back off from talks with the city and develop a Good Neighborhood Agreement,” Trejbal said. He says they can’t go forward with the GNA, saying that they’ve lost trust in the process.

But Jamey Duhamel, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s policy director at the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, says that’s not the entire story.

The city has indeed been trying to determine the future of Hazelnut Grove and officials have said they’re looking at a Dignity Village model which would have more oversight.

Dignity Village is the city’s first sanctioned transitional village for homeless people in Northeast Portland’s Sunderland neighborhood.

“We had one meeting, where we sat down with (Mayor Ted Wheeler’s) office, Hazelnut Grove and the Joint Office of Homeless Services, and the One Point of Contact; we just said, what could this look like?” Duhamel said.

Trejbal has been vocal in ridding the neighborhood of Hazelnut Grove since it started in 2015, initially as tents.

The camp has since evolved into a more organized village, and the city has provided items like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers when neighbors pointed out that the camp is in a wildfire area.

Trejbal argues that North Portland gets a disproportionate amount of the city’s homeless projects, pointing to the tiny-home village for homeless women in Kenton.

Duhamel calls that a misguided notion.

“Kenton has 14 people. Hazelnut Grove has like 20. When we’re talking about disproportionate, they should talk to neighborhoods like Lents, which has lots of people directly on the streets and have no organized village resources to stabilize them,” she says.

But Trejbal is more angered that the city has not officially sanctioned or permitted the Hazelnut Grove village along North Greeley Avenue.

Duhamel says that’s what they were looking at in their separate meeting.

“I think where the conflict has happened is Overlook wanted to have a much more involved say in what that contract ultimately said between the two parties. We definitely communicated that the contract exists between the city and Hazelnut Grove, it’s not a contract between the city, Hazelnut Grove and Overlook (Neighborhood Association),” Duhamel said. “And while we welcome the neighborhood association’s suggestions, feedback and concerns, we also have to be accountable to the city and Hazelnut Grove directly.”

She said they assumed that Overlook would “recognize the advantage of having the city more deeply involved.”

Duhamel said the “city recognizes that the village is not a permanent solution for anybody” and finding new land for the encampment is rare and often with caveats, and they’re not particularly interested in displacing Grove residents from the area they’ve been living in.

She’s looking forward to a newly-established group of neighborhood board members. On Sept. 20, a resident of Hazelnut Grove was elected to the board.

The group will vote on a new chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer on Oct. 3.

As to whether the groups will go forward with mediation, Duhamel said, “That’s up to the Overlook neighborhood. I’m hopeful that once the new board takes their seats, we’ll be able to reengage with mediation.”

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.