One of the problems that cities up and down the west coast are having right now is with homeless people using the streets and sidewalks as a bathroom. Portland and San Francisco both employ special crews of street cleaners that remove the human waste on a daily basis. One proposed solution has been to set up more public bathrooms so the homeless have someplace else to go besides the sidewalk. But an attempt at making that work in Portland isn’t proving popular with neighbors.
About a week ago, the city rolled out a “hygiene facility” which is basically a trailer with a porta-potty and some lockers on it. When the trailer first arrived, there were few if any homeless people camped out nearby. The street looked like this:
In a matter of days, the trailer gradually became the center of a growing tent camp. Here’s an after photo. You can see the trailer down the street to the left:
Not surprisingly, residents of the area are complaining to the Portland City Council. From KGW 8:
Tiffany Hammer lives in the Goose Hollow neighborhood and is fed up with homeless campers. On Wednesday she spoke at Portland City Council about her concerns regarding homeless campers near Southwest Montgomery Street and 14th Avenue…
While Hammer says she and her neighbors have endured fires, stolen possessions, even violence, the new hygiene facility has brought about more campers and threatening behavior.
“A swarm of extra campers have shown up in the last week and we’ve had a lot of personal attacks from that alone,” she said. “We hide our children in our homes to protect them. They are no longer able to walk to school.”
Denis Theriault with the Joint Office of Homeless Services said the hygiene facility is brand new and the one at Southwest 14th and Montgomery is the first place where the hygiene facility has been placed.
Here’s what’s curious about this. This particular neighborhood has been trying to do something about homeless campers for months. Earlier this year a group of neighbors raised their own money to clean up the garbage (including used drug needles) and human waste that had been left behind. Once the ground had been cleared, they planted dozens of rose bushes in the space to discourage tents from popping up again. And that’s when they got in trouble with state officials.
It turned out some of the roses were planted on the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) land. They asked neighbors to remove the roses since they didn’t have a permit to plant them. ODOT eventually reversed course and said the roses could stay so long as neighbors sought a permit. However, they asked that handmade signs and ribbons be removed as they might contribute to garbage! So ODOT couldn’t clean up the actual garbage and drug needles that had blanket the area previously, but pink ribbons had to go. The story made the local news.
Now, just a few weeks later, the city decided they would make this same neighborhood the very first place to roll out their new hygiene trailer which, predictably, became the anchor point for a new tent camp. I don’t know if the neighbors are suspicious, but it makes me wonder if someone at the city decided to punish this neighborhood for doing a better job cleaning up the mess left by the homeless than the city or state has been doing. It just seems like quite a coincidence.
Here’s the KGW 8 report on the situation: