The homeless people leaving the Springwater Corridor for Eastmoreland during activist and former mayoral candidate Jessie Sponberg's "Economic Refugee Exodus" on Thursday have discussed setting up camp at the medians on Reed College Place—the long, leafy promenade of the inner Southeast Portland neighborhood.
The planned end location of the exodus—the nearly mile-long, park-like grassy median—is owned by the city, but for years has been tended to by the residents of Eastmoreland. The neighbors pay a landscaper to tend for the land.
That money also covers the cost of a sprinkler system that waters the grass.
At a heavily attended Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association meeting last night with Commander Chris Davis of the Portland Police Bureau, some in attendance proposed increasing the frequency of the sprinkler system to deter campers.
But Robert McCullough, an Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association board member, says that the neighborhood won't be upping the frequency of the sprinklers.
They're also not going to shut them off.
"It is completely automatic. It sprinkles sometimes and not other times," McCullough said to WW. "They go off several times a day. It's not likely to flood anyone out, but if you were taking a nap it would certainly wake you up."
McCullough said that the sprinklers go off at 9:30, 10:30 and 11 a.m. on all days except Wednesday. He's planning to put up signs on the median, warning people of the automatic system and to clarify that they're not sprinkling people on purpose.
McCullough said that the residents of the neighborhood, which was chosen as the end location of the exodus because it's where mayor Charlie Hales and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury reside, is anxious about the potential for a homeless camp.
"Mothers and fathers are concerned because there's a grade school right there," McCullough said. He said that the neighbors are planning to report every illegal activity they witness if a camp forms, saying that the camp will likely be under 24-hour surveillance by the neighbors.
McCullough is also worried that the neighborhood isn't an ideal location for a homeless camp because of lack of resources. "There's no water, no toilets, no food in this area," McCullough said. "This is not a place where the homeless would normally find themselves."
While Eastmoreland residents aren't excited about the exodus, Sponberg's protest has some support among the residents of Lents.
"I love the idea, because people with means, decision makers, policymakers, would then have to deal with it face on—no more of this pretend-this-doesn't-exist," says Robert Schultz, a public-safety chair of the Lents Neighborhood Association.
Schultz was one of the 175 in attendance at the meeting in Eastmoreland last night and says he already sees differences in how the city treats the mayor's neighborhood.
Commander Davis came to Eastmoreland last night and promised to increase patrols. Schultz says no commander has visited Lents and the police have said they're too short-staffed for extra patrols.
"[Eastmoreland residents] vote more; they contribute more; they're more plugged into the political machine of our city," Schultz says.
But McCullough doesn't see the exodus as a solution.
"It's a terrible idea," McCullough said. "We should actually be solving the problem of homelessness, not using them as political footballs."