Business owners voice homeless concerns to city leaders

City leaders held a special meeting for downtown businesses

Lloyd Center general manager speaks about security costs due to homeless issues in Portland. (KOIN)
Lloyd Center general manager speaks about security costs due to homeless issues in Portland. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Business owners voiced their concerns about the growing homeless problems in downtown Portland to city leaders Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw and Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese were among those at the invite-only town hall for downtown business owners.

A Standard Insurance representative said employees feel unsafe downtown and worry about the long term affect of homelessness. The owner of the Portland Spirit said he hears from customers who say they won’t come back because they are afraid walking to their car after a dinner cruise.

Business owners in downtown Portland say homeless people sitting and sleeping on the streets is turning away customers. (KOIN)
Business owners in downtown Portland say homeless people sitting and sleeping on the streets is turning away customers. (KOIN)

“I think you people need to visit us and further to that, like on Sunday night when I was broken in to, police officers responded, very polite, they more or less tell us there’s nothing you can do,” said Kevin Pilla, owner of Budd+Finn. 

The meeting comes after Columbia CEO Tim Boyle spoke out about SOREL employees feeling unsafe at their downtown headquarters and at least one small business had to close after repeated issues with the homeless.

Pilla said he may also close his doors after 4 year. He said a homeless person broke into his store on Sunday but it wasn’t the first time.

The general manager of the Lloyd Center said “security costs are staggering” for the mall. He asked for additional patrols saying, “you have no idea how positive an effect that is.”

Outlaw said the police bureau is working to get more officers on the streets.

“We’re pushing for more staffing and it’s not something that happens overnight,” Outlaw said. “It takes about 18 months to get one officer up and ready.”

Wheeler also said he wants to see more officers on the streets community policing, but not just in downtown.

“Walking patrols means there’s an opportunity to build community trust,” Wheeler said. “If people see a police officer, they know that inherently reduces opportunistic crime. That’s a proven fact.”

Wheeler was not available to comment after the meeting, but his spokesperson told KOIN 6 News the city is working on a few steps in response.

“We have to take those concerns seriously,” Michael Cox said. “What we are trying to say in response by bringing folks together in this room tonight is we understand and we’re doing something about it.”

Cox said soon some parts of downtown labeled “high pedestrian zones” may not allow overnight camping, including on sidewalks and doorways