A Portland City Contractor Loses All the Personal Belongings of Gilligan, the Former Mayor of Slough Town

Portland is required to store personal items swept out of homeless camps. The contractor didn’t.

Gilligan in Slough Town. (Christopher Onstott)

Gilligan is a handy fellow.

Last year, the homeless Portland man used a screwdriver, an ax and wrenches to build himself a tiny home on a raft in the Columbia Slough, complete with a wood stove, hand-crank washing machine and nearby heated shower. He figured those simple tools would help him build his next home.

To the security guards who tossed his camp, they were apparently trash.

The failure of a city contractor to store Gilligan's personal belongings has thrown his life into turmoil—and seems to violate the terms of a legal settlement. Gilligan now has only cardboard boxes for shelter, a tarp slung over the top of them.

The company, Pacific Patrol Services, has a contract with the city's facilities office—worth $117,557 this past year—to help Portland police clean out homeless camps. One of its responsibilities is to remove personal belongings during camp sweeps and store them for 30 days.

The storage requirement is a condition of a legal settlement the city signed in 2012 with six homeless plaintiffs represented by the Oregon Law Center. The settlement in Anderson v. City of Portland says the city must post advance notice of camp sweeps and keep "for storage any item that is reasonably recognizable as belonging to a person and that has apparent use."

But earlier this month, Pacific Patrol Services assisted in sweeping a homeless camp in the Northeast Portland neighborhood of Parkrose—and has admitted to not keeping the items it cleaned out of the site.

Danny Ferren, 40, who goes by the name Gilligan, is a familiar face to WW readers. He was the founder of a floating homeless camp in the Columbia Slough called "Slough Town." The welcoming reception given to Gilligan by residents of Parkrose was featured in a cover story last year.

In the July 11 sweep of a camp on city property along Northeast 122nd Avenue and Airport Way, Gilligan lost nearly all his belongings, including construction tools, a heavy-duty bike trailer he'd made himself, barrels for making a new raft, his straight-edge razor for shaving, and spare bike parts.

On July 20, he telephoned Pacific Patrol Services and recorded the call. The tape, which he shared with WW, includes the voice of a security officer admitting the company didn't keep Gilligan's belongings, including the bike trailer.

"It…shouldn't have been thrown away," says Cy Torrey, the person at Pacific Patrol Services to whom Gilligan was directed.

Pacific Patrol Services is a Portland-based security firm that provides guards for a number of downtown clients, including city parks. In 2014, it won a contract to assist the city with homeless camp sweeps.

Torrey goes on to tell Gilligan the employee responsible no longer works for the company.

"I'm upset with this situation," Gilligan tells Torrey, "because you're saying you threw away everything I had. I had to borrow a bar of soap to take a bath afterward."

Although homeless people have long complained that cleanup crews take a cavalier approach to their personal possessions during camp sweeps, the phone call marks the first occasion in which a security officer admits to failing to store belongings.

CAMPING OUT: Gilligan, at his new campsite, eats ice cream recovered from a dumpster.

The city gives crews some discretion in what they can throw out and what they must store. Any item containing food can be treated as garbage, the city says. But Gilligan's bike trailer and tools appear to meet the settlement definition of items that must be stored, says Monica Goracke of the Oregon Law Center. "Without knowing anything about the actual items you list," she adds, "I would say that items of that description should be stored."

It's not clear what action the city will take. Spokeswoman Jen Clodius of the Office of Management and Finance says the city has the right to terminate its contract if Pacific Patrol Services fails to follow city policy.

"It's possible that nothing at the site was salvageable," says Clodius, who sent along photos of the site. "If anything was discarded that should have been kept, the City would do a complete investigation then decide a path forward. It is unlikely that we would terminate a contract based on one violation."

Neither Pacific Patrol Services nor Torrey responded to WW's requests for comment.

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