Portland crews clear out Laurelhurst Park homeless camp


Naida Mosley
 

How might this have gone down differently? 

from Portland Tribune, Thurs Nov 19, reporting on actions that morning. 

Portland crews clear out Laurelhurst Park homeless camp

Around 100 people had been living in tents and in vehicles on the border of Laurelhurst Park on Portland's east side.

City officials and contractors have begun clearing out a homeless camp in one of Portland's tony east-side neighborhoods.

Numerous posts on social media indicated that Rapid Response Bio Clean crews were clearing out the long row of tents and other structures on Southeast Oak Street in the morning hours on Thursday, Nov. 19.

One Rapid Response contractor told Alex Zielinski of the Portland Mercury: "We know we're moving you and you're going to just have to set up camp somewhere else. I don't want this guy to be living in this tent, it's bulls---. These people deserve something better than a shelter."


Volunteers with Sisters of the Road were on site assisting residents of the camp, Zielinski reported. Portland Police Bureau officers were not visible, but some officials with the Bureau of Transportation were spotted.

One resident, Pony, told Street Roots executive director Kaia Sand: "This was the first time I had a structure in eight years."

During rallies earlier this month, dozens of local activists had vowed to prevent the clearing out of the campsite — and a small band of unknown persons inflicted minor vandalism to the Rapid Response Bio Clean headquarters days later.

Mayor Ted Wheeler said some in the camp were referred to newly-opened shelters, but others remained and did not follow social distancing mandates and other rules.

"We are taking action at Laurelhurst Park to ensure the health and safety of people living in our community and of our shared public spaces," Wheeler said in a statement. "We posted the site clearly and with ample warning so people were aware that a change was needed."

The mayor added that outreach workers have visited the encampment daily for two weeks.

"Moving forward, we will continue providing compassionate alternatives to street camping while preventing large-scale camps that block sidewalks and rights of way, creating public safety and health risks and obstructing access to shared community spaces," he said. "As we continue to address sites that pose risks to public and environmental health and safety, we will be deliberate in ensuring we continue to thoughtfully and sustainably balance a broad variety of needs and expectations."

Commissioner Dan Ryan commended the efforts of the city's urban camping impact reduction team and the service providers working at local shelters.

"The balance of protecting the health and safety of those living outdoors in increasingly harsh conditions, as well as the safety and well-being of residents, is both complex and challenging. We remain committed to doing the difficult and necessary work to address all aspects of this crisis," Ryan said.

Ryan's statement included some sentences that were identical to the language used in Wheeler's statement. Gwen Thompson, a spokeswoman for the commissioner, said a mayoral spokesman "provided permission to use some of their statement (if desired)."

Ryan added that "compassionate measures" were taken, including offering space in shelters where COVID-19 safety compliant conditions, hygiene, water, food and other services are available.




Zane Sparling
Reporter
971-204-7865
email: zsparling@...
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Jeff Liddicoat
 

One answer to the question 'How might this (the Laurelhurst sweep) have gone down differently?' is that it shouldn't have gone down at all. Instead the City should still be following the directive of the Center for Disease Control to refrain from sweeping homeless campers during the pandemic.

But now during record setting rates of new cases of Covid in Multnomah County the City is launching a sweeps campaign in direct contradiction of CDC guidelines. In the meantime in an effort to justify their actions and obfuscate matters related to the CDC the Mayor and people like Lucas Hilliard (Director of the Homeless Impact Reduction Program), are trying to make it seem as though it is campers who are in violation of CDC guidelines. They say that the campers in Laurelhurst (for example) were failing to keep tents 6 feet apart, had more than the recommended limit of 10 structures, and had inadequate containment of garbage.

But note first of all that the CDC never said cities should feel free to reinstate sweeps if campers failed to follow limits in terms of camp size or the distancing of individual tents. As for the City's sincerity about the number of tents in a given camp please note that the City's own authorized homeless camps have significantly more tents in them than were present in Laurelhurst. Another detail the City expects everyone to overlook is that campers who were separated by the recommended distance (and had no garbage  strewn about), were nonetheless swept away with everyone else.

All of that should make it pretty damn clear that this new round of sweeps is nothing more and nothing less than the same victimizing of the poorest of the poor that has been going on in this City for as long as it has been a city.

The rationale for the sweep in Laurelhurst was that the campers by being on or near sidewalks represented a health risk to citizens walking by. The media and the public in large measure accept such claims without giving it a second thought. I'm hoping subscribers to pdxshelterforum are different and will think twice about such claims. For starters these camps and campers are all by definition outside. And so any interaction between campers and other residents occurs outside. And it is now fairly well established that Covid is not easily transmitted while in the outdoors.

Add to that putting on a mask when walking down the street or sidewalk and transmission rates plummet even further. And of course if people just take a few extra steps to avoid campers who might be out and about  any claim of threats to the public health are minimized even further. And lets face it taking those few extra steps to avoid the homeless is already commonplace and was so prior to the pandemic.

So now let's look more closely at the comparative risks campers pose for citizens versus the risks faced by campers from citizens who would force the homeless into shelters. Of course for starters shelters are enclosed indoor spaces and in my experience have in every instance had lousy ventilation. Unless you have really strong powers of self deception
you know full well that people who are taken from being outside 24/7 usually by themselves to being forced into an enclosed open floor plan space shared with dozens of other people is going to face a much higher risk of contracting this disease. All the lip service in the world about how sweeps are for the good of the campers merits the strongest of expletives.  Come on think about it, if you knew you had to spend the night sleeping next to someone with an active case of Covid19 would you rather be outdoors and zipped up inside a tent - or at some homeless shelter next to that sick person with nothing between the two of you but  the stagnant air as the two of you inhale and exhale all night long?
People like the mayor or Commissioner Ryan or Lucas Hilliard who try to make that sound any different are nothing but deceptive mother fuckers who value career (or whatever) over human life. Period.


On Fri, Nov 20, 2020 at 2:29 PM Naida Mosley <naida.mosley@...> wrote:

How might this have gone down differently? 

from Portland Tribune, Thurs Nov 19, reporting on actions that morning. 
 

Portland crews clear out Laurelhurst Park homeless camp

 
Zane Sparling
 
November 19 2020
 
Around 100 people had been living in tents and in vehicles on the border of Laurelhurst Park on Portland's east side.

City officials and contractors have begun clearing out a homeless camp in one of Portland's tony east-side neighborhoods.

Numerous posts on social media indicated that Rapid Response Bio Clean crews were clearing out the long row of tents and other structures on Southeast Oak Street in the morning hours on Thursday, Nov. 19.

One Rapid Response contractor told Alex Zielinski of the Portland Mercury: "We know we're moving you and you're going to just have to set up camp somewhere else. I don't want this guy to be living in this tent, it's bulls---. These people deserve something better than a shelter."

 

I’m at laurelhurst park where city contractors are clearing a large encampment of houseless Portlanders. It’s the night after a heavy rain—tents are soaked, people are crying as they pack their belongings. pic.twitter.com/fTJQcjVyLa

— Alex Zielinski (@alex_zee) November 19, 2020

 

Volunteers with Sisters of the Road were on site assisting residents of the camp, Zielinski reported. Portland Police Bureau officers were not visible, but some officials with the Bureau of Transportation were spotted.

One resident, Pony, told Street Roots executive director Kaia Sand: "This was the first time I had a structure in eight years."

 

 

During rallies earlier this month, dozens of local activists had vowed to prevent the clearing out of the campsite — and a small band of unknown persons inflicted minor vandalism to the Rapid Response Bio Clean headquarters days later.

Mayor Ted Wheeler said some in the camp were referred to newly-opened shelters, but others remained and did not follow social distancing mandates and other rules.

"We are taking action at Laurelhurst Park to ensure the health and safety of people living in our community and of our shared public spaces," Wheeler said in a statement. "We posted the site clearly and with ample warning so people were aware that a change was needed."

The mayor added that outreach workers have visited the encampment daily for two weeks.

"Moving forward, we will continue providing compassionate alternatives to street camping while preventing large-scale camps that block sidewalks and rights of way, creating public safety and health risks and obstructing access to shared community spaces," he said. "As we continue to address sites that pose risks to public and environmental health and safety, we will be deliberate in ensuring we continue to thoughtfully and sustainably balance a broad variety of needs and expectations."

Commissioner Dan Ryan commended the efforts of the city's urban camping impact reduction team and the service providers working at local shelters.

 

"The balance of protecting the health and safety of those living outdoors in increasingly harsh conditions, as well as the safety and well-being of residents, is both complex and challenging. We remain committed to doing the difficult and necessary work to address all aspects of this crisis," Ryan said.

Ryan's statement included some sentences that were identical to the language used in Wheeler's statement. Gwen Thompson, a spokeswoman for the commissioner, said a mayoral spokesman "provided permission to use some of their statement (if desired)."

Ryan added that "compassionate measures" were taken, including offering space in shelters where COVID-19 safety compliant conditions, hygiene, water, food and other services are available.



I am live tweeting from #Laurelhurst Park where the city of Portland is sweeping the encampment. I talked with Pony, who gestures toward his tent. “This was the first time I had a structure in eight years.† pic.twitter.com/SaQnJDnPP1

— Kaia Sand (@mkaiasand) November 19, 2020

 


Zane Sparling
Reporter
971-204-7865
email: zsparling@...
Follow me on