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At the houseless camp in Laurelhurst Park, reportedly a cleanup and "site removal" is planned for tomorrow (Tuesday) starting as early as 5am.
(background: August 11th on KATU
, and emails included in the thread below).
A) Questions for Lucas Hillier
and Jonny Lewis
(City of Portland, Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program
1) could you clarify, when and for how long and from what area do you plan to ask campers to vacate themselves and belongings, if at all? Is this a plan to "clear" i.e. fully remove the camp and residents for some substantial time, or just to "clean" the site, allowing campers to return once finished?
2) If residents at the Laurelhurst Park camp refused to vacate a) their dwellings, or b) their bedding, or c) the area they are in, or d) if they returned to sleeping in the park after the "site removal" actions at site by City staff and contractors, what do you anticipate would be the possible responses from the City? Are there any fines, or civil or criminal charges, which the City would be prepared to apply in that event?
B) Questions for Village Coalition, PDX Shelter Forum, and other community members:
1) Would you agree that the camp areas in Laurelhurst Park present health and safety problems as described here in HUCIRP's June 26, 2020 "Phase 1 Protocol" memo
"These areas have created significant public health and public safety challenges, including an inability for the unsheltered individuals and other people using these public spaces to comply with public health physical distancing guidelines. In many cases, these tents and structures are set up in ways that don’t adhere to physical distancing guidelines intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19. They are not allowing for the CDC-prescribed 12 x 12 feet of space per individual, providing six feet of separation between tents, limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people, and they do not allow the public to use sidewalks and access businesses, housing units, bus stops, and other amenities without violating the expectation that people maintain six feet of distance from each other. In short, these large congregate encampments increase the risk of viral transmission to community members who are required to navigate these public spaces. As the community moves toward re-opening, these circumstances will only create greater risks – risks that are balanced against the risks associated with moving a group of unsheltered people who are concentrated in a certain area.
"These large campsites can also be a hub for victimization and trafficking. Moreover, they create additional public safety challenges: specifically, the presence of large amounts of human waste, large quantities of improperly discarded drug paraphernalia, and scattered debris."
2) What would you suggest the City, and other parties, do in response to the situation?
On Mon, Nov 9, 2020, 4:02 PM 'Peter Parks' wrote:
This is a message prepared for a press conference tomorrow (Tuesday Nov 10) in reaction to the potential sweep at Laurelhurst Park.
Begin forwarded message:
Benji Vuong <baopdx@...
November 9, 2020 at 3:43:28 PM PSTTo:
Peter Parks <peterparks@...
>Subject: Re: Response from HUCIRP
Thank you Peter. I got the same e-mail notification from another person with the exact same copy and paste message from both jonny and lucas. We will be holding a formal press conference tomorrow around 9am, as I am sure you may have heard. Currently, we are trying to get some endorsement on the press conference, this is what has been written up so far from John Mayer with Beacon PDX:
We know the majority of Portlanders feel deep compassion toward their homeless neighbors and want humane solutions; we also know that people are fed up. So are we. This camp is not a solution. But sweeping is not the answer.
Encampments are painful reminders of the persistence of dire poverty in the midst of plenty. Unfortunately, our local government is focused more on ending the visibility of homelessness rather than on ending homelessness itself.
Homeless sweeps are costly and ineffective and make homelessness worse, not better.
-- Sweeps do nothing to advance humane solutions for homelessness. Sweeps increase instability and stress for homeless people, and fail to address the actual causes of homelessness
-- Allowing encampments to exist (e.g., not sweeping them) does not enable homelessness, it makes the problem worse. Multiple studies have found that the majority of campers displaced in sweeps did not end up in city shelters and that sweeps made camper less likely or able to seek shelter than the reverse (p. 7).
-- Taking people’s personal belongings away does not make the person disappear. But it can make the condition of homeless more dangerous and dire—deprived of their clothing, tents, and personal items, people living outdoors are more vulnerable to cold weather, illness, stress, and instability in their lives, further entrenching homelessness in the process. Breaking up camps also breaks the bonds of community that people require to cope with the stress of homelessness.
-- Homeless people have the same property rights to their personal possessions as any other person in Oregon—imagine your reaction if the police arrived at your house and began removing all your belongings to a facility 15 miles away -- and you had no car to go reclaim your things.
- Sweeps are expensive. Despite their ineffectiveness and inhumanity, the city’s budget for 2020 expanded funding for sweeps to nearly $5 million.
-- Sweeps have become so common in Portland that the city now contracts a private garbage hauling company to do its work. While the city is newly requiring that workers to “be polite, diplomatic and professional at all times” while in the act of dismantling the homes of those in the camp, there are numerous documented cases of illegal property destruction and abuse.
Forcing people to move against their will is inhumane, especially:
--In the middle of a pandemic -- the CDC has specifically advised against sweeps because of the increased risk they pose for coronavirus spread
--amidst freezing temperatures
--Without adequate options for an alternative. Even when shelter beds are an option, many choose not to access them, and with good reason. A statewide study found the following top reasons for reject government-provided shelter: Personal safety concerns and prior trauma, personal privacy concerns, restrictive check in and check out times, overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, discrimination or barriers related to gender identity, sexual orientation, or LGBTQ+ status, and being unable to shelter with a loved one. Additionally, more than 50% of those who enter shelters end up back on the street within 24 months. In short, shelters are not a better option for many people than living in a camp.
What has developed here at Laurelhurst is where we are as a city
-- While the city has made big strides in preventing the number of homeless in Portland from growing even more (gains that are severely threatened by Covid), there remains nowhere near enough capacity for shelter or affordable housing in this city
--4,000 people are unhoused in Portland; there are only 1,400 year-round shelter beds available. There are an additional 275 winter beds, totalling <1,700 beds. On extremely cold nights (<35 degrees), additional beds open (unspecific number). That still leaves thousands of people without shelter space.
--Long waitlists for limited affordable housing (city estimates we are 20,000 units short)
--Limited sanctioned camping options
--Limited emergency shelter options, which nobody sees as a good option for long term
By the numbers
40% of houseless residents in Multnomah county have to access to shelter.
The number of people sleeping outside (not in emergency shelter or transitional housing) increased by 22% between 2017 and 2019. Portland is short more than 2,000 beds, meaning that over 2,000 people are sleeping outside on any given night. Another 2,000 people are in shelter and/or transitional housing; this number increased
In 2019, the city was short 20,000 affordable housing units that people making minimum wage or who are on a fixed income can afford.
A recent PSU survey found that 35% of renters, and 50% of renters of color, owe back rent and are in danger of eviction when the eviction moratorum is lifted.
Communities of color are significantly overrepresented among the houseless—in 2019, the percentage of Multnomah County’s houseless population of color increased to over 38% (only 29.5% of the population of the county).
The percentage of unsheltered people who report one or more disabling conditions —including physical disabilities, mental illnesses, and substance use disorders —is now 78.7%.
Shelters are not a long-term solution—more than 50% of those who enter shelters end up back on the street within 24 months.
Many homeless people become unhoused because living on the streets is a safer alternative to their prior housing situation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that “between 22 percent and 57 percent of all homeless women report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness.”
The median rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in Portland is now $1,336, which would require an hourly wage over $24 for a single full-time worker
perhaps you can reach out to your folx to see if they want to endorse this message.
Thank you for contacting the Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program regarding the cleanup and removal of homeless encampments in and around Laurelhurst Park. Your feedback will be logged and shared with the decision-makers involved in this cleanup.
A link to HUCIRP’s COVID 19 Phase 1 Campsite Cleanup/Removal protocol can be found HERE. This protocol was developed by Portland City Council, Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and Multnomah County Health Department. The decision to clean Laurelhurst Park is consistent with the thoroughly vetted processes and outreach efforts articulated in the Phase 1 Protocol.
We first sent our Navigation Team to Laurelhurst Park in August to work with campers. This team is comprised of outreach workers from Transition Projects and Central City Concern and outreach clinicians from Cascadia Behavioral Health. Their main goal was to share the new camping guidelines, make shelter referrals and complete vulnerability assessments for permanent supportive housing. They also provided support for people who wanted to go to detox and be treated for substance use disorder. When cleanup crews began cleanup/removal, most individuals had repositioned their spaces to be compliant with CDC guidance. Cleanup crews only removed camper-identified garbage at that time.
Unfortunately, park conditions reverted back to non-compliance with CDC guidance. We again repeated our efforts in the weeks leading up to Friday September 25th. Once again, when cleanup crews returned to clear the area, we were pleased to find most people had repositioned themselves; crews only removed trash that campers had set aside for crews to remove.
Conditions worsened only a few days later despite ongoing efforts by crews visiting daily for trash mitigation and biohazard removal. These conditions have persisted since early October. When it was announced the Mt. Scott Community Center would be a 24/7Winter shelter, we timed our outreach and removal efforts to coincide with the shelter’s opening. The Navigation Team then started reaching out to campers at Laurelhurst, and last week they were able to make 15 shelter referrals. We hope to build on that success this week prior to the removal.
Please understand that the decision to clean and clear encampments at Laurelhurst Park was only made after several attempts to provide services to campers. This site at Laurelhurst has consistently met our thresholds for posting and removal since before the initial shutdown back in March. We have spent the last nine months coordinating closely with outreach providers to try to get campers to comply with public health guidance and those attempts, again, have not been successful. Our outreach team is back at this location today (11/9) to follow up with folks to offer shelter and services before we move forward with the site removal this week.
City of Portland, Office of Management and Finance
Homelessness/Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program
d: (503) 823-6930 (he/him/his)
From: Peter Parks <peterparks@...>
Sent: Sunday, November 8, 2020 8:00 PM
To: Hillier, Lucas <Lucas.Hillier@...>; Lewis, Jonny <Jonathan.Lewis@...>
Subject: Tuesday sweeps at Laurelhurst Park
Lucas and Jonny,
This is Peter Parks, supporter of houseless people, resident of Overlook Neighborhood, and member of Stop the Sweeps, PDX.
I received notice that HUCIRP intends on Tuesday to evict about 100 people presently camped in Laurelhurst Park. They have been there since before the pandemic.
I am curious what the specific reasons are for this decision and wonder if there is some other way to resolve any problems without evicting so many folks at the height of the pandemic and with the cold weather just setting on in earnest. I am prepared to help in any way I can with alternatives to moving these folks in mass.
So, Why? and how can I help?