August 9th, 2013 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: Activism, Housing, City Hall, Cops and Courts

Sidewalk Sweep Could Extend to Lents, Hales Says

Crackdown moves into Buckman, as Saltzman says housing not the issue.

homelessschrunkHomeless protesters pitch tents in the federal plaza in front of Portland City Hall Aug. 8 - Photo by Aaron Mesh

UPDATE, 1:44 pm: City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the transportation bureau, says he and Mayor Charlie Hales are having "discussions" about how the sidewalk sweep is being conducted.

"I talked with the Mayor last week," Novick writes WW, "and I agreed that people can't use the public sidewalks as their personal property. We're having ongoing discussions about the details of his plan."

ORIGINAL POST, 9:20 am: As Mayor Charlie Hales' sweep of homeless camps from city sidewalks continued to expand Thursday, Hales said he's been in discussions with TriMet about enforcing the city's no-camping policy in Lents.

Hales said those conversations stem from the stabbing of a bus driver July 17 outside a break room in the East Portland neighborhood. Police say they suspect a resident in the homeless camps under the Interstate 205 overpass.

"It's going to be where the problems are," Hales said of his crackdown, in comments during a Thursday afternoon press conference in Portland City Hall earlier reported by The Oregonian. "There's other places in the city besides the central city where the problem is acute. We're not interested in chasing people around."   

The sweep of sidewalk campsites is most visibly aimed at large groups of panhandlers and protesters in downtown Portland. Irate people pitched tents in the federal plaza across from City Hall Thursday evening, yelling at TV cameras and passing traffic.

But as WW previously reported, the sweep has also served eviction notice to homeless camps beneath the I-5 and I-405 bridges. And on Thursday morning, homeless people say police rousted about 20 of them from a sidewalk next to St. Francis Park in the Buckman neighborhood of Southeast Portland.

Street Roots executive director Israel Bayer, who has served as a homelessness advisor to Hales, has told WW the mayor is "posturing" without offering housing options.

The city commissioner in charge of the Portland Housing Bureau, Dan Saltzman, didn't attend the City Hall press conference. But he tells WW the people being evicted from sidewalk campsites aren't seeking shelter.

"The people who the mayor's enforcements are aimed at are not the people we're aiming our housing opportunities at," Saltzman said Thursday evening. "There's very little intersection."

Saltzman's comments echoed Hales' statement at a querulous press scrum that included several homeless activists. Hales pledged to direct city general-fund money to shelters as soon as this month, but said keeping sidewalks open to everyone is his first priority.

"We're not going to wait until the homelessness problem is solved to address lawlessness," Hales said, "otherwise we're going to be waiting a long time."

Around 11 am Thursday, police evicted as many as 20 campsites along Southeast 11th Avenue in the Buckman neighborhood, near a park and soup kitchen run by St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. Homeless people tell WW the city squad threw their belongings into a truck.

"They put up signs yesterday afternoon, and now they're throwing stuff away and telling us we have to leave," said William King, who lives in his car nearby. "Police are telling people not to sleep within five blocks of a private business."

King said he wants city officials to see the effects their policies are having.

"If the commissioners actually come out here and talk to us, and actually understand why we're out here, then a lot of people would be a lot calmer and abide by the rules," King said. "But a lot of people are stressed out each time we get pushed off a campsite.

"I want the government to fight for us," King concluded, "instead of fighting against us."

 
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