Portland Mayor Charlie Hales plans to announce tomorrow that the city will clear out at least a portion of the extensive homeless camp growing along the Springwater Corridor bike trail, two sources familiar with the city's intentions tell WW.
The Springwater Corridor has been a refuge for homeless people in East Portland for years, but the line of tents along the bike path has grown exponentially in the past year. A source tells WW that Hales will not sweep the entire two-mile corridor.
Cleanup efforts will likely focus on a group of several dozen tents directly east of Southeast 82nd Avenue. In the past week, that site has seen a shooting and a fire.
The mayor's office ordered a cleanup along the Springwater in May, sweeping a half-mile stretch to the west of Southeast 82nd Avenue that had been home to 300 people. Neighbors say those residents merely moved east, many of them into the Beggars Tick Wildlife Refuge on Southeast 111th Avenue.
A two-mile stretch of the bike path and former natural area has remained the site of more than 180 structures and is home to as many as 500 people, making it likely the largest homeless camp in the Pacific Northwest and among the largest in the nation, WW reported Wednesday.
"The situation on the Springwater is the direct result of not having any physical locations for people experiencing homelessness to be," says Israel Bayer, a homeless advocate and executive director of Street Roots, who had not been briefed on the city's plans.
"Unfortunately, for people on the streets, our public parks are one of the only places left to go. Until we have massive investments in affordable housing stock I don't see the situation changing."
The trail has been the focus of neighborhood anger as the camps along the trail have grown and become increasingly unstable since last year.
Hales in February legalized camping in tents on city property in groups of up to six people. Parks were supposed to be forbidden for camping under the policy. The camps along the Springwater appear to violate both of the mayor's policies.
In an interview with KOIN-TV on Wednesday, Hales announced he'd also be increasing both social services and police patrols.
Hales' office did not return a call from WW today seeking comment.