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Police Sweep Through Growing Homeless Camp Near Eastbank Esplanade

For the past few weeks, the homeless camp near the Vera Katz Eastside Esplanade has been getting more crowded. Two dozen tents hugged the sidewalk along Southeast Main and Madison streets, under the Interstate 84 northbound ramp off of I-5, and just a few blocks from the Willamette River.

Today, the tents have largely disappeared and campers have been dispersed, some just a few blocks away. Portland police rolled in Thursday and Friday and told people living on the sidewalk to move on.

Several campers reported that they were told by police that their tents were illegal structures and would have to be taken down.

"I've been here two months," said Jackie Thompson as she dug through a pile of clothes along Madison Street. "This is the first time this has happened."

Dana Haynes, spokesman for Mayor Charlie Hales, says the mayor's office hadn't heard about the sweep prior to receiving media calls on Thursday. (KGW-TV reported on the action Friday.)

Haynes says it's simply routine. "It was a standard thing that happens all the time," he said.

The sweep came a day after WW wrote about the camp and Hales' proposal to move another, Right 2 Dream Too, to the eastside and several blocks south of the Esplanade.

In the story, campers said the area had been increasingly attractive to the homeless because of the relatively low police presence recently.

"They know we're going to come right back," says Eric Hill, another Madison Street resident, "but they're trying to make it harder. They said they're going to start being more aggressive here."

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Christopher Onstott