Last week’s post about a number of people living in tents and outside along the Springwater Corridor near 82nd Avenue has sparked a lot of discussion, but one big thing was absent from it: the perspectives of people actually living there.
“Most people out here are really good people. … It only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, right?”
— Josh Hagg, who lives amid a cluster of tents adjacent to the Springwater path east of 82nd.
So on Monday, to learn more about the situation that has led some people to avoid biking on this major corridor at night, Jonathan and I decided to see what some of the people staying along the trail think about the complaints we’ve heard.
Right now there are maybe a couple dozen people, mostly men living solo in tents, along the Springwater on both sides of 82nd Avenue (this is the section of the path adjacent to the Cartlandia food cart pods). There was a couple or two and, I was told, one family with kids.
I went by around 4 p.m. Monday to talk to several of them about how they got there, what it’s like to live along the corridor and the relations between people using the corridor and people sleeping near it.
Here’s what they said.
The man who gave his name as Mohawk Craig was standing with his bike next to his tent when I arrived, just across the path from the Cartlandia food cart pod west of 82nd. When I told him I worked for a blog about biking, his first reaction was to tell me that a pothole had opened up nearby and that he’d almost wiped out on it.
“I’m a vet and trying to get into housing… Some people aren’t here by choice, you know what I’m saying?”
— Mohawk Craig
Of the five people I talked to living outside, Craig was most likely to start saying things I couldn’t follow, but most of what he said was straightforward enough.
Craig said he’s been living in the area off and on since summer, minus some time in a “recuperation” home after a medical procedure.
“I’m a vet and trying to get into housing,” he said. “They want you to jump through a bunch of hoops. I gotta get on the ball on that. Right now I’m helping take care of these people. … Some people aren’t here by choice, you know what I’m saying?”
Craig said that some people on the trail, including himself, try to clean up after themselves and their neighbors, but some people don’t.
“Sometimes people dig into a bunker or whatnot,” he said. “Some people take it way overboard. That down there [he waved eastward] they need to go to jail.”
I told Craig that some people aren’t comfortable using the Springwater right now. He seemed to understand that.
“There’s freaks anywhere you go,” he said. “It ain’t everybody.”
“It’s the same on the other streets that it is walking down the trail,” he said. “It’s worser on the sidewalks.”
Craig said he had called the police once when there were some “dudes picking fights” and a man who he said was drunk jumped the Cartlandia fence and “started bashing in windows.”
Though Craig clearly thought that was wrong and stupid, he also mentioned that homeless people’s property had been bashed in, too.
“The cops came through here and they tore the shit out of this place two to three weeks ago,” he said.
Craig said he thinks there should be more space designated for long-term camps.
“Like, that big field out there, we could put up some boards to make it nice,” he said, gesturing south. “There’s a lot of places, you know. Give a spot. Give an area.”
Short of that, he’d like to have somewhere to poop.
“See, like this guy up there taking a piss,” he said as a man 50 feet away walked a few feet uphill from his tent to face the fence. “Where else is he supposed to go?”
Jones said he’s 29, originally from Tacoma, and living in Portland because his biological father (who he didn’t know because he grew up in the foster care system) lives near Harney Park.
He said he’s been living on the Springwater for “six years on and off” because, in that time, his father had kicked him out “35 or 40 times.”
Like Craig, Jones said he spends a fair amount of time each day picking up garbage around his tent and his neighbors’.
“As you see, mine is probably the cleanest tent you’ve seen here,” he said. “As long as we’re not making a disturbance to the neighborhood, as long as we keep it tidy and aren’t loud at night time, pretty much people are OK with us.”
I asked Jones why he thought people were living in tents. “The economy — people losing their jobs,” he said. “Natural course, I guess.”
I told him some people don’t feel safe biking on the Springwater, and asked what he thought of that.
“Overreacting,” he said. “I’ve never seen a violent encounter around me since I’ve been out here.”
He also said he wasn’t aware of any recent police bust.
“There’s still lots of good people out here, actually,” he said. “It doesn’t happen to everybody, I guess. … As I usually say, it happens to the best of us.”
Sherine Dawson (not pictured) and Luis Solorio
Both Mohawk Craig and Jones had told me that the bigger camps were east of 82nd, so I headed there. There were a similar smattering of tents and shopping carts, some with piles of garbage around them, plus a couple bedrolls (I think) in the open when I got there.
“Sometimes I don’t even want to come out of jail because I know this is what I am going to come out to.”
— Luis Solorio
Dawson and Solorio had set up camp along the back of a shed, about 25 feet up a muddy trail from the path. They were sitting outside when I got there.
I asked what brought them to live here.
“Pretty much not being able to keep a job because of my addiction,” Solorio said. “If I’m not out there, I’ve been in jail. … It’s been like that for the last two years.”
“Sometimes I don’t even want to come out of jail because I know this is what I am going to come out to,” he said.
“Every day I wake up and the first thing I think is: How much [heroin] do I have? And am I going to flip this trick and is that going to be enough to keep me well?”
— Sherine Dawson
I asked the couple whether they think the Springwater camps could be solved through some general public action or whether it just comes down to a collection of personal problems for the people there.
“I think it’s personal,” said Solorio.
“All this is because everyone has addictions, that’s what it is,” she said. “Everybody out here has addictions. Maybe not all.”
Dawson said she has a job at a bakery and also works side gigs; last weekend she installed carpet at an auto shop. She said she makes enough money not to be homeless but has been using drugs since age 11. She currently uses heroin, and said she spends almost all her money to feed that addiction.
“Every day I wake up and the first thing I think is: How much do I have? And am I going to flip this trick and is that going to be enough to keep me well?” she said.
They said their addictions have led to problems that have then made it harder to get their lives in better order.
“I didn’t pay my phone bill,” Dawson said. “Too busy buying heroin.”
Solorio said he’d been working for the taco truck in Cartlandia until one of Cartlandia’s owners found out that he was homeless. At that point, Solorio said, the man 86’d him from the property, effectively firing him. He said he asked what he’d done but didn’t get an answer.*
I told them that some people don’t feel safe using the Springwater. Dawson didn’t seem surprised but she did seem puzzled.
“What exactly is it that they have a problem with?” she asked.
I asked the two if they ever felt personally unsafe because of other people camping or police or anyone else.
“Everybody knows me, so no one will fuck with me,” Dawson said. “So I guess I feel safe.”
Solorio corrected her.
“Everybody knows us,” he said. She nodded, seeming to agree.
A bit east of 82nd and north of the path is the largest cluster of tents, about six or seven, tucked behind some bushes around a small common area. I wondered if it was the spot Mohawk Craig had been calling a “bunker.” Most but not all of the men staying there when I arrived seemed to be in their 20s or 30s. I asked if I could interview someone.
“If people are hurting your community or family, I think you should tell them to leave — they’re bad.”
— Josh Hagg
Two men came over but Hagg was the one who talked to me longest. He said he is 37 and has been living outside for seven years. Hagg also painted by far the rosiest picture of the situation, which he said has been changing for the better.
“It seems like the community is coming together,” he said. “Last year it’s been getting a lot better. … Just people coming together, working it out for each other.”
I told him that some people don’t feel safe using the Springwater and asked if he thought there were troublemakers there.
“There’s probably just like a couple,” he said. “Most people out here are really good people. … It only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, right?”
Hagg said he thinks the solution to problems like that is to drive troublemakers away.
“If people are hurting your community or family, I think you should tell them to leave — they’re bad,” he said. “Folks who are in a house, people who are outside, everybody should come together on that, if someone is being wrong. Everybody wants the same thing, they’re just having a hard time talking together.”
I’m not sure about the rest of what Hagg said, but that much, at least, definitely seems to be the case.
*Cartlandia owner Roger Goldingay says Solorio was not excluded from his property because he lives outside. Goldingay says he witnessed Solorio committing a crime while on the job.
— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – email@example.com
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.
Wow, I’m really impressed with this article. It is quite commendable that you went ahead and talked to the folks down there and got their perspective.
Thanks for taking the time to actually talk to the real live human beings who so many of us are so intent to dismiss. I bike the Springwater every day to get to work and, like many of these five people say, have found that though there are maybe a few people who make trouble from time to time most everyone in this world is just trying to get by with dignity, the best they can.
Terrific reporting as usual, Michael! It’s good to get the other side of the story and foster compassion for our fellow human beings.
This is an outstanding journalistic response to the unwarranted criticism of BikePortland as unsympathetic to homeless camps on the Springwater. Very well done.
Thanks Ben. But I want to make something clear… This story didn’t happen just because I wanted BikePortland to respond to criticism. It’s just the right story to do.
My goal with BikePortland is to host conversations that improve biking in Portland. Conversations that everyone feels welcome to participate in. My story last week left these voices out. That was a mistake. These perspectives will be important to keep in mind, and hear more from, as we report on this issue in the future.
I haven’t been that far East on the Springwater in a long time. It’s interesting to hear what’s going on out there.
On a slightly connected note: the periodic homeless camp under the West end of the 405 bridge in NW Portland is back. If your bike goes missing check there. I commute through those blocks and often see multiple people “working” on multiple bikes at a time.
if you’re talking about NW Savier and 18th/19th then yes, they’re back… it’s a dry flat space without much sidewalk traffic…
I don’t mind if they stay tucked against the fence so there’s still room to walk… but last week somebody put up a tent across the entire sidewalk…
I don’t so much mind them being there, it’s the open air chop shops and piles of bikes/parts that get my goat. Is there a tip line for the Police bike theft enforcement unit?
Yes, good question. Feel free to email the bike theft task force at BTTF@portlandoregon.gov for bike theft related stuff/tips/etc. Pictures are very helpful as well. Also feel free to send us a message on twitter @ppbbiketheft. If it’s a crime in progress/something that needs an officer to respond quickly, of course, please just call 911. Thanks for the info that the 405 area is stacking up again. We’ll try to give that a look. -Ofc. Sanders
Thank you Ofc. Sanders. I was on my way home Tuesday night and the bikes were already visible from the street (on the West side on NW 19th between Savior and Thurman).
Excellent job, thanks…
Good job MA. Did you see all the broken glass that I keep reading about ?
I didn’t, but I didn’t ride more than a mile or so of the corridor — just this section.
I suspect the ones causing problems would be less likely to talk. The self selected sample may inevitably be biased, but it does point out the need to treat people as individuals, and hold criminals accountable for criminal behavior, not communities. It would also be interesting to hear interviews with people in the area who are not homeless.
I thought about this, too. Except for that last case, where several guys were talking in their campsite, I just walked up to the people who were home and awake and asked to talk to them.
I also talked to three people using the trail who didn’t live outside: two on bikes and one walking his dog. The people biking (a white man in his 70s and an Asian-American woman in her 40s or 50s) both said they don’t feel unsafe on the trail but that they’re annoyed by the garbage. The man walking said he thinks the trail is unsafe at night because drug addicts walk there, but said he had never heard of any specific violence or threat of it.
I didn’t get into much detail because the focus of this particular post was the people living there.
Thanks – good stuff
This is how the elite win: they quietly enjoy the bounty, while forcing the rest of us to fight for the leftovers. Whether in terms of space to live or space on the roadways, the primary users get places (housing, dedicated roadways) and the secondary users get to squabble over what the elite deign to donate to us. This is how they keep us occupied, keep us from rising up and advocating for change.
The elite? you mean like people who don’t like criminal behavior in their parks or transportation corridors? If that is what it means to be elite, it appears I have just been promoted to the ranks of social aristocracy.
This article is fine journalism and the persons interviewed are not likely the ones who prompted the previous 350 reply article. That article highlighting violence and illegal behavior was shining light on a problem that exists.
I think I might have been unclear: the people living in the park and the people using the corridor for transportation are in parallel situations of having to use substandard facilities because of the decisions (not to invest in housing, not to invest in adequate non-automotive transportation options) made by the elite, our political leaders. Without investment in facilities, we are forced into fighting each other for table scraps (like unpoliced places to camp or leftover highway funding).
You’re right, the problem is real. Portland is in a funny spot because it’s too nice to really move those folks out of there, but not nice enough to pay for housing for all of them. It’s the uncomfortable middle. Honestly, I don’t think people ought to be allowed to camp out there, and I wish the police had more power to move them out of the Park Blocks, out from under the Hawthorne Bridge, and so on. It’d be one thing if they were polite and clean. A lot of them aren’t.
How do you consider the Springwater a “substandard” transportation option?
Have you read this article yet?
Is elite shorthand for not having a heroin addiction?
No, it’s shorthand for the kind of leaders that will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on planning the CRC and far, far fewer dollars on either bike routes or housing for the homeless.
I know subtlety isn’t a strength of this medium, but come on,guys. I can argue both that homeless people shouldn’t be living along this bike path (much less barricading it or threatening other users!) AND that homelessness is a symptom of a larger issue with our culture’s politics and priorities. The two are by no means mutually incompatible.
unfortunately, charley, there are a fair number of people posting to these threads who have no compassion at all for anyone outside their circle
Unfortunately, are, there are a number of people posting to this thread who think that homelessness is an acceptable excuse to participate in all sorts of crimes and that people who fear becoming victims of crime are simply compassionless.
Citation needed (or at least quotes needed).
I think there’s a problem with causality in your statement.
Can someone please spell out what compassion is if we are gonna keep using it as a weapon to win an argument?
I’m happy for you that you haven’t dealt with the brunt of addiction in your own life and family and friends, but don’t for a second think that heroin/opioid addiction only affects those living outside- Heroin is the one addiction that crosses all class and race lines. In fact, the current heroin epidemic is largely centered in more affluent, white suburbs. Here’s some interesting pieces on heroin addiction and how invisible it is within the affluent communities: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/heroin-war-on-drugs-parents.html
The only difference between a heroin addict camping on the springwater and an oxy addict living in a Connecticut Mc Mansion is how long it takes before the latter’s trust fund runs out.
Best Oregon journalism of the year.
While its good to have an understanding of the “why people commit crimes”, regardless it still cant excuse it.
If there is illegal dumping, we need to follow up on it. Why? well whos stopping someone from just driving a truck down there and dumping if all the campers are too? How do we know its not already happening?
If there is mobs of people harassing others, there should be a police investigation followed by resolution. We know stolen bikes end up down there.
If there is traps being set for commuters on the trails, there should be a police investigation followed by resolution.
If there is public illegal drug use and prostitution happening, there should be a police investigation followed by resolution.
If there have been numerous reports made about the safety of others on the trail in any context, there should be a police investigation followed by resolution.
All of the above should apply regardless of your house status. Period!
The homeless maybe the symptoms of a bigger problem but is the solution to ignore their illegal actives because you want to blame their behavior on a root cause? At the end of the day no one made them drug addicts but them selfs. I’m an not gonna blame the system for lack of capacity for the transgression for a legal adult regardless of their background.
And if you truly think its ok to justify illegal activity based on someones background drug use then just wait for all the iraq/afghan vets to break bad.
I say shut the whole trail down and kick everyone out till we get a grip. If we as a community can’t uphold this trail we don’t deserve it.
The issue needs to be addressed from both ends. Yes, we need to work on providing housing for people living outside, work towards affordability, and treat drug addiction as a disease instead of a crime. However, we must also address the dumping, harassment, assaults, and theft. It’s not an all-or nothing situation and we must look for multi-faceted solutions instead of just creating divisions.
Holding all homeless people responsible for these issues is unacceptable, but so is allowing this dangerous activity to continue.
One thing I see happening with this issue – and others our city/nation is facing – is that we spend more time arguing with each other and trying to “win” our debates over who’s doing things wrong instead of using our energy to work together to fix the problem. Twitter is a classic example of this. Much of people’s energy and time is often spent arguing with each other instead of focusing on the issue/problem they supposedly care about.
This problem demands a united, community response… So that means we, the community, must first embrace each other (and our differences about who caused what and why) so that we are able to move forward together with more strength and impact. Does that make any sense?
Spending energy towards solutions? I just want accountability, you know the same standards that I’m held to. I’v been homeless, jobless and unwanted by the public and yet I’m still held to a different level of standards.
Lets cut the BS and call it what is it. Negligence to uphold standards of safety for our community. The problem is and has always been the pain is not painful enough to spend money on upholding standard of living for everyone. Get the camps to relocate in front of people’s homes who have the political capital to uphold standards and watch what happens.
I share some of your concerns too Josh.. I’m just saying that I think there’s a more productive way to approach the issue so that more people who are impacted and who want to help make things better feel respected and welcome enough to join us and get involved.
What there should be is a dry place for these people to go, a roof over their head and then they and we can start dealing with the problems that got them there. Sanctioning outdoor camping is such a cheap lazy way to deal with this and it is not working at all.
Hales and the city council don’t care about this issue obviously.
New leadership is needed.
I don’t think that the camps should have to be removed but I think if any of the camps show a lack of respect for the land they are on in any shape they should have to leave. So in short if any want to allow this standard of living then we have to create a standard of what is executable. And ignoring it out right because they are at a disadvantage is not a standard. Lets face it we are not gonna fix the issue of people camps out side unless we get dogmatic and ruthless and I think there could be a compromise to that by making the people who use the land respect it.
Many of them refuse the roof over their heads because they don’t like the rules that come with it. There have to be rules in any shelter situation to make it livable for the majority.
who polices the police?
Maybe you should, or better yet they are hiring why not go fix it from the inside? Otherwise you could just respect the system put in place to help people and uphold the laws we all vote on.
I would love to see a citizen-driven reboot of law enforcement in this town. Law enforcement eats up far too much of our city’s budget and, IMO, make our city less safe in aggregate. I also have little respect for the american law enforcement system. It is also in need of major reform (and demilitarization).
Mayor Hales is in charge of PPB. And he’s doing a stellar job!
It’s unfortunate that some advocates are taking such a broad approach to people living outside. Each person has their own story and their own reasons for living outside. I think this story demonstrates that well. Kudos to BikePortland.
“All of the above should apply regardless of your house status. Period!”
“At the end of the day no one made them drug addicts but them selfs.”
I vehemently disagree with these statements and believe this rhetoric within bike advocacy is toxic to the movement. Let’s be better than that.
It’s unfortunate that some people get away with breaking laws because their not annoying enough and there is no money in holding them accountable.
In a democracy, citizens can choose to disobey laws and this disobedience and/or lack of enforcement often results in positive change. A good and topical example of this, is the movement towards decriminalization of drug use.
laws laws laws laws laws.
how about we address the actual needs of actual human beings. some people need/want to be able to use public spaces for recreation and/or transportation. others need a place to sleep. if we have to bring police into every situation in which these needs conflict, we have failed.
If this was only about camping do you really think it would be a problem?
Its not about camping, its about the self proclaimed dysfunctional drug addicts that attack and intimidate people as they pollute the public domain for which the seem give little respect for.
You want to camp for free in areas maintain by the public for the public. Better leave the area cleaner or as clean as when you started camping! Wanna commit crimes in that area then its time to GTFO! Other than that, I don’t care what they do with their life’s but the second it affects my or anyone else’s right to use the trails or our safety the whole empathy thing goes right out the window for me. If all the above seems like it should be true then what tool better for the job that an public organization made to uphold the laws in our area.
indeed, it’s amazing what happens when you turn this:
I maybe wrong but I don’t recall ever see stories about people with cancer or diabetes using that as an excuses to to commit crimes agents the community and the people they love. Aside from being told to eat right and to not smoke we are talking about meth and heroin addicts that use that as an excuse to continue to break the laws and to be a general pain to our community and still you want me to pity them? The difference of picking up a big mac vs picking up a crack pipe should be obvious.
But kudos from trying.
Also lets not forget that we are talking about people who can change their life choices vs just saying “You know, today I’m not do cancer… ”
And if you don’t believe that they truly beat their addictions based on will power alone then only real way to help them with their addiction is to institutionalize them and remove them from their enabled environments otherwise statistics show they will relapse and have a very low success rates.
So whats it gonna be, create standards and demand they adapt for the sake of everyone they effect with their bad life choices or impound them like property? But regardless the fact remains you can keep ignoring their transgression because “they have a disease”
“You know, today I’m not gonna do cancer… ”
“have a disease” is the part I was picking up on, and why I made those analogies. It doesn’t excuse theft or damaging public property (though the latter gets into a different discussion about “right to shelter”). But it does mean there are serious issues that need to be addressed.
I mean, poor Sherine, who has been on heroin for (presumably) a decade or more. That’s a huge issue that we, as a society, aren’t addressing. Heroin deaths have basically tripled in the past 10 years (source: CDC), rx drug overdose deaths are up about the same with benzo ODs up about 5x (drugabuse.gov on CDC data).
Interesting that there’s no mention (not you, Josh, just generally in this article and comments) of Salt Lake City, which is at least attempting to tackle this issue.
How do you think they’re paying for the habit. Lock that bike up good. And be sure your homeowners or renters insurance is up to date.
A diabetic that ate sugar and refused to take insulin would be comparable to a drug addict. A cancer patient that got it from smoking cigarets, then refused to stop but expected everyone else to be responsible for their health.
We do need better treatment for addiction and the addiction itself is a medical problem, not a law enforcement one. But we don’t need to tolerate illegal activity that threatens our security because someone has a disease.
This story is great and I thank the BP folks for doing it.
On my stolen bike adventure (plus recovery) I learned a lot about the internal’s of the bike theft community. I met a lot of characters that were great people just in some tough times. They also spoke quite strongly about bike theft and violence within their camps and community from police, other vagrants and “vigilantes.” It really made me rethink my view of some of the folks in these camps.
Thanks BP crew!
It would be great if you could put this into a guest post sometime – I’d read that.
Hm, I do definitely want people to hear Shawn’s comment but I was intending to “hear hear” the concept of Shawn doing a guest post about this story…
Insightful comment, thank you.
I don’t so much mind them being there, it’s the open air chop shops and piles of bikes/parts that get my goat. Is there a tip line for the Police bike theft enforcement unit?
Good reporting, but I didn’t feel we were missing this perspective. WW, The Mercury, OPB and the O (to the tune of a multi-multi-part series) have all done several sympathetic “in first person” stories on Portland’s homeless campers. What I feel are lacking are the voices and stories of neighbors of encampments, victims of harassment and crime–would love it if you’d talk next to the folks whose homes are bordering the Springwater Corridor.
It sounded to me in this story (and others) like many of the people interviewed were admirably honest about what brought them to where they are. In my experience, dealing with active users is really difficult, and (no revelation) drug addiction’s at the root of most theft crimes. My brother embezzled from a family member (his employer) and his business, among others, to support his main habit. Charming as all get-out, and willing to do anything to feed it.
I feel sympathy for the addicted but have seen firsthand that you’re helping no one if you let slide or overlook offenses against others, in the name of ‘compassion.’ In fact, that route can lead to more real destruction and harm. Again, not news, but you really can’t force someone to be ready to deal with their addiction–it has to come from them. But they can run out of places to go in the meantime, as family/friends get burnt out and robbed/endangered too often and (understandably) don’t want to continue to be victimized. I don’t know what the answer is, except more addiction/rehab facilities and support services. But too many addicts will have nothing to do with them.
I was talking to a Dutch guy about how they justify all the bike valet services offered around town. His reply was, “it is part of a job program for people who would be homeless”. Would love to have something like this for portland. Instead of downtowns clean and safe how about a Green and Safe program that offers jobs that promote sustainability? Bike valet stations, recycling stations….
Funny you should mention that because this is actually a stated goal of the upcoming BIKETOWN program.
Sometimes I think this is one of the reasons you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon. I’ve met a lot of people who work at gas stations and later found out they do it because no one else would higher a felon.
On top of the issues of good people on hard times, bad people doing bad things, and people trying to use a transportation corridor, there are millions of dollars being spent to restore the damaged watershed of Johnson Creek. Much of that money comes from the power generating concerns (Bonneville Power, PGE, Pacific Corps) who have irreparably damaged other habitats where threatened and endangered species live. By restoring watersheds where there are no dams, the companies (try to) compensate for the damage caused by their dams. This participants of this blog have great sport mocking the plight of salmon. These species however are worth protecting and restoring. They are emblematic of the Pacific Northwest and indicator species to the health of a river. The Johnson Creek Watershed Alliance are stewards of this watershed trying to make areas along the Springwater Trail nice and undo damage to the creek that is a result of thoughtless land use.
Allowing uncontrolled camping along the trail is thoughtless land use. Urban campers treat the river as a sewer and garbage dump. Shopping carts, sleeping bags, plastic, and all manner of refuse finds its way into the creek. Hundreds of volunteers spend thousands of hours working on this river, as a labor of love and to watch their efforts unraveled by cheap and lazy public policy that results in sloppy campers is aggravating. Most people who camp leave nothing but footprints, but the impression of these urban campers is that they cast garbage thoughtlessly and wreck nice things.
There have been a coupe of wildfires set – directly attributed to camp fires at these homeless camps.
At the camp that was removed from the ODOT property under 205 on Johnson creek, there was a significant amount of human waste in the creek and the campers had even disturbed the creek bed moving rocks to form a “bathtub” in the creek where they bathed and washed clothes, actively putting detergents into the creek water – a creek that has just barely gotten better enough to have salmon return to it.
I’m sure Mohawk Craig is a nice enough fellow – he sure comes across that way. But, these kind of statements – “Like, that big field out there, we could put up some boards to make it nice,” he said, gesturing south. “There’s a lot of places, you know. Give a spot. Give an area.” – are really really concerning. They illustrate that these folks have no idea the negative effects they’re having on the environment. Putting up boards isn’t necessary for camping. That field over there is likely a wetland restoration area – and at the very minimum is a place they’re trying to reestablish native plants and habitat.
I”m in favor of a designated camping sites, but the policing (both self policing and community policing) has to extend into the neighborhoods and include regular, thorough litter patrols. The bathing and toileting facilities have to be temporary and sanitary and the camping area really should just be a covered pavilion where people can put up camping hammocks. Not tents – hammocks that have to be packed up daily and taken away with the hammock user. We should be teaching people how to camp in a way that minimizes their footprint – and encouraging them not to accumulate possessions they really can’t put to use.
The camp sites should also be dispersed throughout the city and able to serve no more than 20 people.
We’ve had advocates propose a camp on the Springwater around 82nd. The problem is they refuse to acknowledge that the policing and litter clean-up needs to happen beyond the camps and that they need to take responsibility for keeping the neighborhoods safe and the people that visit these camp sites for nefarious business or social purposes away – well away – away from the neighborhood, not just outside the fence around the camp site.
And, beyond your accurate assessment, Johnson Creek is the most flood prone creek in the metro area. Campers could set up, damage the restoration, then get flooded out, or worse, in a high water event. Their presence in this location is wrong in many ways.
And this is what the creek bank ends up looking like post flood. This is just downstream from where a group of 10-20 campers had dug in and set up a favela under the 92nd Ave bridge over Johnson Creek.
Here’s another one:
It is this single point alone that drives the majority of my frustrations. I don’t care who you are or what is happening in your life, but if you allow this to happen you have crossed the line. We as a society need to stop using poverty as an excuse to pollute.
I have never had a problem with the campers along the trail, but have had issues with clean, well fed, well housed punks from the burgeois class throwing rocks and gravel at riders.
It’s funny/disgusting what white male “boys” will do when they know they won’t be shot first without question.
And I say this as a white guy.
I for one would like to see more restrooms on the springwater trail..
I fine is amusing that there is a main sewer line under most of it and like only 2 or 3 restrooms on the whole trail. same goes for the fairview section.
Many of our newer parks, such as The Fields in the Pearl and Khunamokwst Park in Cully, have gotten new Portland Loo toilets installed. There should be many more of these around Portland, especially along trails and where homeless people congregate.
Mohawk Craig is the only person of those interviewed, that mentioned having called in to the police, a disturbance created by some of the campers. What was the response to that call? It’s to his credit that he at least made the call.
The other people interviewed, made no mention of being aware of what, as described in past stories to bikeportland, seemed to be quite serious incidents of harassment and threats made by certain campers towards people legitimately using the Springwater MUP. If the people camping on the borders of this path aren’t going to police bad behavior of people living among them, someone else is likely to step in and do so in ways that may not like, such as the police sweeps.
Without the campers having some sort of safe and sound community policies, including enforcement, opening up a bigger camp on a nearby field similar to the one shown with a big steel electrical tower, in one of the pictures to this story, more room to camp, with facilities, doesn’t sound like the kind of remedy that will end the hostile confrontations on the Springwater.
Expand the Right to Dream II, and Dignity Village settlements appears to be what some people commenting here believe the Portland community, meaning residents of the city as a whole…should offer as a response to problems with campers on the Springwater. That’s a wonderfully compassionate idea, but in terms of it possibly being a realistic means of resolving problems on the Springwater, it seems very shortsighted.
This just sheds light on what I’ve been feeling about these guys. I hadn’t really felt fear about the sitch until the hulabaloo blew up on the previous article. I have to hold back tears when I ride by them. I feel like we shouldn’t automatically get on the defense with this. Can we get together and bring them food and supplies instead? Go out on our bikes, all together as a big group so there is no fear. Maybe even ask the PPD to come with us. Bring them food, water, toiletries blankets.
How about leveraging one or more of the groups that’s already in that space? https://www.google.com/search?q=portland+volunteer+homeless
It’s Portland: we have coffee carts, food carts, why not mobile social services carts?
Yeah, like the Lava Mae bus conversions: https://youtu.be/up9TfkcJNxk
That is funny, I get the feeling that is part of the justification that Oregonians have to pump their own gas.
Living in these conditions along (or in) our MUPs and parks and sidewalks isn’t fair to anyone. We need to keep turning up the volume. “We’re working on it” isn’t an excuse any longer.
“We’re working on it” isn’t an excuse any longer.
Damian Miller posted a Facebook link in that other thread which in turn links a video of a group in the Portland ODOT lobby on Jan 12 protesting camp sweeps. I really liked what the woman had to say at 4:50: “…that in less than a week, the governor call a public meeting in our city…” That is a timeframe I’d like to see. 5,000 people sleeping outdoors involuntarily in January in this climate is an emergency. If the powers that be (city, county, state, fed) can’t handle that, try to imagine what 50,000 would look like in a natural disaster.
PS – re your next post, just below – http://bikeportland.org/subscribe 🙂
With this great article reminding us how much BP does for our community it’s time to ask: What have we done for BP lately?
Thank you for helping us see and rethink these issues.
Anyone else have compassion fatigue by now?
Kind of, yeah. I don’t ride the Springwater, but I’m often in Waterfront Park near the Steel Bridge and railroad tracks, and it just breaks my damn heart to see people living outdoors. I have so much…but what I don’t have is extra housing or even a spare room.
I know I’m not alone in wishing for some concerted action I could participate in that would actually help these folks get under a roof, with plumbing and heat and a modicum of safety.
I have fatigue for the kind of indiscriminate, very public, very hands clasped, eyes heav’nward ‘compassion’ too many Portlanders seem to be demonstrating. I see that kind of compassion as wholly counterproductive and more about the tearful handwringer and the vision they want to have of themselves, less about truly helping people. The most effective workers with needy populations that I know are not tearful handwringers. They’re pragmatists, and compassionate but tough, realistic, savvy and not pushovers. Really helping people means holding them accountable, too. The “conditions” referred to too often (“how can we let them live in these conditions?”) are of many campers’ own making. It’s a real insult to homeless, camping folks who live neatly, quietly and without harassing or disturbing others to excuse filth and mess and disorder and threats as part of “being homeless.”
Everyone seems so afraid of saying the utterly reasonable, everyone fears being scolded with “You hate the homeless!” After all, it’s the first comment in nearly every discussion online I’ve come across when the subject of homelessness comes up. It shuts people down right quick. I daresay it prompted this very story, that hectoring/shaming.
I appreciate Josh Chernoff’s candor here. We absolutely SHOULD not like the trashing of our sidewalks, parks, trails, riversides, etc. I DO mind it. Does it make me not compassionate to mind it, to not like it, to hate it? Why can’t I be compassionate and still hate it? It is not bad or wrong or odd to mind it. A lot of homeless people mind it, too–the ones who are not tearing up, befilthing and disrespecting public spaces and who are not harassing people or stealing. I wonder sometimes if it drives those good (homeless) citizens as crazy as it does me, to hear themselves lumped in with all the jerks (we are everywhere, in every population, after all) who are ruining public spaces for everyone.
I am 100% for getting people into addiction and mental health services. Closing mental health facilities and shoving mentally ill people out on the streets is one of the great crimes of the century. And regarding Americans and drugs, here’s a harrowing account of just how bad it’s gotten, from today’s NY Times. We need more aggressive services.
But I am for accountability–not enabling jerks or jerkiness, which is frankly what you do when you indiscriminately “help.” I want to discriminate between those whom I’ll help, yes. I do not want to enable or help the person who tries to steal my (or your) bike, knocks me off my bike, blocks my path, dirties my parks and renders them completely useless to me and every other citizen. I really don’t want to send the message of, (warm smile) “Hey! Screw me! Screw US!”
Experience with addicts, abusers and sociopaths has (thankfully) NOT bled me of compassion–quite the opposite, I would argue. My compassion now is not of the murky/amorphous variety but far more focused and, hence, actually productive and helpful (I hope). You can’t conflate calling for accountability with not caring. If anything, Portland really needs a more firm, dispassionate, structural approach (i.e., help with reasonable conditions) to coming up with solutions, unclouded by misplaced cries of “You hate the homeless!” and relatively easy good deeds you can feel good about, and maybe share on FB.
Almost TLDR, but you hooked me with the first line. I think the beginning of a solution might be to give what one of the interviewees specifically asked for – a designated place with restroom facilities that campers can use. Along with it would need to be some simple rules and self-policing. The creation of the space as a community would go a long way for its residents to care about and take care of the space. For those with greater needs, specifically addictions, resources can be targeted and tailored to be efficient expenditures of rare public money, i.e., focused on those things that help people kick habits and overcome PTSD and other major psychological dysfunctions; get them back on their feet as part of a supportive and supported community.
Re assimilating people back into our community starts with showing them they need to be accountable for them selfs. Thats how you gain trust to get the jobs, that makes the money, that create the sustainability that is needed in their life to turn it around. Its my opinion it is that very lack of respect and self accountability that lead them down this path in the first place. How can we ever hope to help the people if they them selfs can never strive to live better than they are? Its as if the very same people who wish to help them wish for them to stay the same.
The war on drugs has been an abysmal failure. And the most successful approach to hard drug use has been the Dutch/Swiss approach. Decriminalization is the pragmatic position.
Some day this war’s gonna end…
If you don’t think their poor choices are harming our community consider the news today.
Very well stated. Compassion for people does not mean letting them run amok.
People living outside is a fact of a city. Deal with it and incentivize people to conglomerate in a single location. The army lives outside and nobody wines. Why? They have showers and shitters.
People living outside is a fact of third world countries…….
They actually have less of a negative impact (both on the environment and causing social conflict) if they’re dispersed. I’ve brought it up before, but there’s a reason that humans living in hunter-gather groups split in half and move to non-competing territories once the population of the group reaches/exceeds 40. It’s because competition for resources starts to impact ability to sustain social relationships with minimal conflict.
This is a really good piece. Thanks for giving them a voice.
Xlnt! Thank you BP & Michael! Way to represent.
I can’t ride anymore, but I would love to support a socks and sandwiches run out there. Talk about a truly bike-dependent community! Nobody is more so. I would love to hear strategies for giving those communities access to donated bikes so nobody needed to steal to get their mobility needs met. Somebody should create a centrally located bike version of Sisters of the Road.
In addition to a BP sponsored soup and sock run, people can think about these kinds of things that are easy to carry on a bike: batteries, tarps, Sisters of the Road meal tickets, snack bars, trash bags (don’t laugh), instant coffee, handiwipes, innertubes, lights.
People in that deep with addiction need longer term treatment, probably inpatient with transition assistance. You have to sign on to their specific Christian devotional thing to get that from a church program here, and abandon your family, pets, and all. Imagine trying to do an outpatient thing commuting from there? Very hard.
You don’t need to provide all the supplies yourselves. There is a guy doing what he calls “The Garage Project” which warehouses stuff for distribution to homeless. If you follow the FB groups around this support work calls come through with donated stuff available for distribution.
Housing First is the evidence based, humane solution, and the idea that you can harsh people into solvency and sobriety is ridiculous. Demand adequate public housing with support services.
Good comment, Waiting, I like the positive ideas!
The bike theft and chop shop problem seems to be more about getting cash than it does about campers’ transportation.
http://www.communitycyclingcenter.org/ (CCC) and http://b4hpdx.org/ offer earn-a-bike programs where they teach you how to rebuild a bike and it’s yours, and CCC and http://www.citybikes.coop/ have very affordable used parts and tires. Many people and churches give bikes to people in need. I’m sure some new 26″ x 1.75-2.125 tubes wouldn’t be hard to give away (I’d probably go with slimed if I were their place). Chain lube and cables could help some of them roll smoother, and a u-lock would help them keep their bike theirs.
If you’re willing to do the organizing, you might find some people to take up your ideas on http://shift2bikes.org/. Sign up for their mailing list to get in touch.
By the way, HuffPo has a piece focussed on homeless women –
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-weisswolf/blood-in-the-streets-menstruation-homelessness_b_9019638.html – and in it I really liked the idea from San Francisco of rehabbing old city busses into mobile shower and toilet facilities – Lava Mae: http://lavamae.org/ .
(pretty sure all those urls will land this in moderation. 🙂
Hmm. It’d be cool to do a BP “garage project delivery” thing.
Michael, you are a true journalist. Thank you so much for always raising the bar and taking on challenging but important stories.
We’ve been talking about the homeless camps quite a bit lately. Thanks for the perspective of people outside. It’s a good reminder that addiction is not the only reason people are camped out.
So has BP once again done another apologist piece for people who victimize others?
Lester. As you know, I delete most of your comments because I feel like you’re mean to others without reason and some of your comments don’t add anything productive to the conversation.
Here’s my unsolicited advice. Hope you don’t mind me sharing it…
Disagreement can be very productive, but think about how the words you write make other people feel— and how they impact our ability to solve the problems you yourself seem to care about.
The reason we (Portland, America) have many intractable social problems right now is because I think way too many people use a divisive and uncompromising tone when debating issues.
If you like having 99% of your comments deleted, don’t change anything. If you want to be part of the conversation, please share your opinion in a more productive way. Thanks.
I worked in Portland Parks for almost 30 years, over half of it in the downtown core and ‘dealt’ with homeless people on a daily basis. Your article is accurate in that people, homeless or not, are all across the spectrum. Most of them are respectful and don’t want to bring unwanted negative attention on themselves. There are of course exceptions. Yes a significant chunk of them seem to have drug/alcohol problems which can be problematic. All of them live in situations where hygiene and sanitation are a big problem as there are next to no facilities available regularly to them. This alone tends to make the general public wary of them. Most of the public tends to avoid them. Some portion of the homeless have poor ‘social skills’ and whether intentionally or not behave in ways the public may find inappropriate, aggressive or threatening. Many come from bad home situations, others suffer PTSD from their military experience while others lost their jobs through either the economic down turn or their own personal mistakes. All of these things stand in the way of these people getting back on ‘track’. They, as a group, have relatively few resources to draw from. Having said that there is also a group that seems to have ‘given up’ and is angry. These are the people who caused us problems in Parks because of their littering, vandalism and general disrespect for others and property. It’s a complex problem. Most of the homeless are certainly deserving of a helping hand. It would be ‘evil’ and wasteful to group them all together and ‘throw them away!’
Just remember that all people share the same basic needs and that the homeless must take care of all of theirs directly. Healthy food, clean water for drinking, toilets, showers, laundry facilities, a place to safely store our possessions…. When you live on the street all of these things become a bigger deal and will require more of your time and effort. For the rest of us we have homes in which these needs can more conveniently and securely be met. Blame them if you must, but if people are to regain their places in ‘society’ they will need these things. Once lost without friends or family in the position to help, without adequate income, suffering dependencies, without an address, with possible ‘mental’ issues and most certainly with issues around self-image and confidence, all of these people face an over whelming uphill struggle. As a society we need to be asking ourselves what we can provide, what each of us as human beings have a right to. There are those on the streets who despite all that has befallen them still hang on to their dignity, others have lost even that. What does it say about us as a people when we choose to not do what we can?
I’m 64. During the holidays I throw packages for a large package delivery company. I’ve done this for many years. Base + bonuses adds up to @ $14 an hour for this very temporary, very unskilled job.
This temp job is what gives an individual entree into a permanent position. Those permanent delivery positions pay 80K plus a year, plus benefits.
Even at my advanced age, I’ve been offered a permanent position several times; at least, I’ve been encouraged to apply.
My knees hurt. My back hurts, I’m looking at Medicare options right now.
If I can do this work and attract offers for a permanent position, these five individuals can do the same.
I’m ashamed that everyone of these people has more style in clothing than I do.
Portland is very accomidating to the homeless. That is why so many homeless come from out of state to camp here.
I read somewhere & saw newscasts that there was a hospital in Nevada that didn’t want to care for indignant or homeless patients and so would … buy them bus tickets to Portland.
here’s a couple of links.
Leave the patients to us: Is Nevada unloading its mentally ill in Oregon?
Nevada hospital’s ‘patient dumping’ extended to Oregon
wish MA would have asked them if they came from other states ?
For all of you who state that we should have empathy for the transgressions of the camper because of their drug addictions I have a question for you.
Should we also extend the same empathy to the people who’s transgressions towards the camps are possibility the result of being victimized by the campers?
The purpose of Laws and Government is to DE-legitimize retaliatory retribution cycles for wrongs against one’s fellow citizens.
Doesn’t matter WHO did what.
Freedom from consequences for ones criminal acts: no.
Stop trying to make this an US vs THEM fight.
This is about violently aggressive PEOPLE who happen to be homeless. Camping and homelessness is NOT the crime in question.
Pushing the campers out will have the same effect it did downtown ; it just moves the problem elsewhere. Somewhere even further away from public services that could help.
Meeting violence with violence perpetuates and enhances the problem. History consistently shows that violent “solutions” only lead to more violent conflict.
First and foremost I never once said to force anyone out of the area. I just want the people who use the area to respect it. Let people camp there all they want so long as everyone has the right to use the trails safety. So long as the land is not being polluted. So long as crimes are reported and handled swiftly and accordingly. Beyond that on the issue of homelessness and my so called lack of empathy. All I’m trying to do is highlight the hypocrisy of turning a blind eye to one crime for another.
apropos article to this: “Papa Doc, 44, knelt beside his bicycle, wrestling to attach the tow-behind cart that carries his belongings. His hands show the wear and grit of decades without a domicile or the basics it ensures. He had just eaten a hot meal provided by an outreach group, but the last time he’d thoroughly washed was unclear.”
This post is a response to Cora Potter’s photos of camper cast garbage in Johnson Creek. I put the reply here at the end of the thread so it won’t be lost in the middle.
The efforts of Johnson Creek Watershed Council to recreate a natural setting around Johnson Creek could do more than enhance fish and bird habitat. Areas that function, look, sound and smell like natural areas are a balm for the spirit. Persons of little income (or no income) can get soul renewing recreation by being in such a place. The sound of splashing water in a shady riverbend on a hot day can transport a person away from their daily concerns. To cycle through such a place would be renewing in a brief, concise passage.
The campers who are trashing the commons are not just making a place ugly and counteracting habitat restoration, they are eliminating low cost, high value recreation. They are taking something of value from people who have NOT given up on being part of society. They are taking something away from working people who may have few high value recreation options.
It is a complex problem, but although the campers may be societal victims, they in turn, are victumizing people who are playing by the rules.
Thanks for doing this. Sick of hearing scared rich people whine about where people with nowhere to live decide to sleep at night.