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Views from campers about the future of the tent city on Springwater path

Posted by on July 13th, 2016 at 9:56 am

trail motion

The Springwater Corridor near SE 82nd.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

It’s been a week since someone living on the Springwater Corridor survived a gunshot and months since it became maybe the largest single tent camp — tent suburb? — in Oregon.

Consciously tolerated by the city government under an uneasy compromise brokered by Mayor Charlie Hales and his (now former) chief of staff Josh Alpert, the encampment has gotten more and more complicated as it’s become a more common place for people without a roof to look for refuge. It’s also gotten harder for people biking on the Springwater to ignore. With Alpert gone from the city as of July 1, the camp’s future is newly uncertain.

Thacher Schmid (who I should disclose is also a personal friend of mine) is a freelance reporter based in Portland, writing in this case for his own website. He rode his bike to the camp last week and spent a few hours talking to people there about their lives and the city’s efforts to reduce, manage and regulate homelessness.

We found the post full of surprising details and definitely worth a read.

Depending on how you define a “camp,” the bicycle trail and footpath area between SE 82nd Ave. and the Beggar’s Tick wildlife refuge at 111th Ave. is possibly the largest homeless camp in the city of Portland, perhaps even all of Oregon.

It promises enormous challenges for any police officers, park rangers, advocates, officials or neighbors who would try to “sweep,” relocate or re-house these hundreds of campers.

It also suggests that the geography of poverty is a crucial aspect of the situation: for all intents and purposes, in Summer 2016, along the Springwater Corridor, the place is the people and the people are the place.

The people, Schmid writes, have definitely been affecting the place.

Furniture, including heavy items like dressers, are set to within inches of the Springwater Corridor itself in some places, suggesting how much work campers have put into their homes. Soccer ball sized rocks delineate pathways filled with wood bark leading to shared campsites, and some tents are lovingly cared for, with immaculate gardens featuring five-foot sunflowers nearing bloom.

Among other people, Schmid interviews the camp’s “self-appointed spokesperson,” a “highly intelligent, 34-year-old, self-described ‘hipster’ and laid-off aerospace steelworker” who goes by “Crash Anarchy,” identifies their gender as “your answers may vary” and wears a Guy Fawkes mask during the interview.

“We’re going to get kicked out next week,” Crash said. “They will lock people up when they come.”

Tom Alvarado, a customer at Cartlandia and local who often bikes down the corridor at perhaps a slower rate than the constant stream of Spandex-clad flyers, is sure the Springwater situation is becoming more precarious. Alvarado says recently he’s had to stop and basically ask permission from campers to bike through crowds blocking the path. He’s seen piles of feces on the trail itself for the first time in the last few days.

“It’s crazy,” Alvarado says. “It’s apocalyptic down there. It sucks all around: it sucks to be homeless, but it sucks to be someone who pays rent and deals with it.”


Several other people talk about how they landed there.

“It all started with a little vacation,” Blaga explained, sober as a judge and munching on a burrito. “It,” as in: car accident, lower back pain, lost job, waiting for an insurance settlement, car thefts, wallet stolen.

Schmid, who recently went deep into Hales and Alpert’s new policy for legalizing and regulating small tent camps in an article for the Northwest Examiner, asks people there what they think.

Asked about Alpert and Hales’ Safe Sleep policy, and the possibility that Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler will be less tolerant of camping, Crash said that would be “awful.”

“The only reason we don’t have to be afraid to fall asleep is because we have each other,” Crash said. “Shuffling people up and down the bike trail and giving them exclusions is not fixing the problem.”

Safe Sleep allows for a maximum of 8 structures or individuals in a single campsite, so Camplandia is certainly not allowed under Safe Sleep or any other city policies, past or future.

Schmid’s report about people living on the Springwater is the first on his new Medium site about local poverty, called “Poor for a Minute.” If the subject interests you, check it out.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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  • Ted Timmons (Contributor) July 13, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Saw and read his piece yesterday. The discussion of difficulty for the disproportionate POC/transgender community is especially troubling. One thing missing from the lede was the fire two days ago:

    Occam means it was started (on purpose or accidentally) by people living right there. It doesn’t sound like any campers were injured or lost property.

    This isn’t a “trail users vs homeless campers” issue; both parties are suffering, and it’s a really unfortunate situation.

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    • Cora Potter July 13, 2016 at 10:24 am

      There’s also the nearby residents that are subject to being “gleaned” from on a daily basis. Many are lower income renters or lower income homeowners (the median incomes of homeowners in Lents is only slightly more than 50% of the AMI- these are very house poor people). These are folks that can’t afford to subsidize the “incomes” of the folks camped on the trail. A stolen stroller or bike is 2 months or more of lost discretionary income for most residents.

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    • Bjorn July 13, 2016 at 10:25 am

      Housing safety codes exist for a reason, having that many people with open fires and no sanitation living in that area is a liability for everyone around it.

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      • Ted Timmons (Contributor) July 13, 2016 at 10:42 am

        Absolutely. It’s dangerous and I can imagine not much fun to live there. How can we help improve their lives?

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        • Pdx Phoenx July 18, 2016 at 11:40 am

          Well. first is you have to determine “do they want help?”

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 10:31 am

    The city should really be setting up designated campsites with bathrooms, running water, and garbage facilities. People are going to camp anyway, so instead of trying to restrict them, why not tolerate them and create a safer environment?

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    • dwk July 13, 2016 at 10:33 am

      So I assume that the designated camp will be in your back yard…..

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      • Alex Reedin July 13, 2016 at 10:51 am

        The best short-term policy would be for the City to set up designated camps in EVERYONE’s figurative backyard – we have thousands of people living outside so let’s share the burden. A camp with a maximum occupancy of 50 people in substantially every one of the 80+ neighborhoods in Portland!

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 10:59 am

          Where would you put one in, say, Richmond?

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 11:02 am

            I could probably find an underused parking lot somewhere.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 11:11 am

              I’m sure you could. Why don’t you identify a lot, talk to the owner and neighbors, and make a proposal to the city, or to the RNA?

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              • Alex Reedin July 13, 2016 at 11:54 am

                There’s no incentive for neighbors concerned about local impacts to refrain from killing every last such proposal right now, so Adam’s efforts would be wasted. If the City said, “Hey, pretty much every neighborhood is getting a homeless camp, so work with us or we’re siting the camp ourselves” then we’d be getting somewhere. As of yet, it’s said that to some neighborhoods (e.g Lents) but not others (e.g. Richmond), so the NIMBY urge – “Why my neighborhood and not theirs??” is still strong.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 12:24 pm

                Yep. Neighborhood Associations are nearly useless for creating policy, but are excellent for halting existing policy.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm

                I don’t think Adam’s effort would be wasted… he might actually have a real conversation with someone which might help him realize that this issue is far more complex than “NIMBYs” blocking sensible progress like re-purposing someone else’s parking lot next to someone else’s house to provide camping sites for those along the Springwater.

                How much simpler life would be if not for “those people” who prevent “us” from building a utopia.

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              • Alex Reedin July 13, 2016 at 1:39 pm

                At least he’s trying to come up with policies to help solve problems that are affecting one extremely vulnerable population intensely (people camping outside) and one fairly vulnerable population to a good extent (people living nearby in Lents). Do you have any ideas, or just cold water?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 1:54 pm

                He’s proposing imposing simplistic solutions on other people, and insulting everyone he imagines will oppose them. As I posted elsewhere in this thread, I support temporary conversion of a parking garage into makeshift housing, though I recognize this has its own set of (potentially large) downsides.

                The reality is that this problem is well beyond the capabilities of the city to solve, and what we really need are money and time, neither of which we’ve got much of. We’ll need to raise some serious funds to deal with this problem, and I’m not sure where that will come from. I have my preferences, but I would probably support any broad-based revenue generation mechanism.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 2:01 pm

                I’m not proposing an end-all be-all solution. Homelessness is a complicated social issue that is tied to housing, wages, public health care, etc. However, I think that allowing camping officially but not providing basic necessities such as running water and toilet facilities is a human rights violation and the city is doing no one a favor by half-assing this. Under the current environment, homelessness is happening and is going to continue to happen if we don’t do anything, so the least we can do is make sure these people have their basic human needs taken care of. If people are complaining about human feces in the path, then clearly there is a problem that can be solved by installing a bathroom, rather than simply pushing the homeless people somewhere else.

                That being said, I would also support the parking structure idea.

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              • Alex Reedin July 13, 2016 at 6:15 pm

                Sorry, I didn’t see that before posting my comment (I think I refreshed my browser last before you posted that). It’s certainly a difficult problem, and yes I agree that a *good* solution would need money and time.

                But let’s remember, the status quo is:
                *About 1600 people camping around the city at low density, plus
                *400 people (enough to cause conflicts where effective self-policing is impossible) camping in a small area of the Springwater with no sanitation, in a poor neighborhood

                Can we at least get to a *slightly less bad* solution in fairly short order?

                How can at least distributing the 400 people along the Springwater to ~10 camps in both poor and rich neighborhoods with sanitation be a downgrade from what is going on now?

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              • mh July 13, 2016 at 7:04 pm

                I assume you say that because you know the RNA…

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          • soren July 13, 2016 at 11:20 am

            There are several underused parks in the Richmond and HAND neighborhoods. I definitely prioritize emergency housing for the houseless over glorified dog runs.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 11:34 am

              Is it your proposal that we convert parks to homeless camps? I think that is a woefully inadequate solution to problem.

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            • dan July 13, 2016 at 11:56 am

              How would you quantify “underused” with regards to a park, the same way some quantify it with regards to bike lanes they want to remove?

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              • soren July 13, 2016 at 1:08 pm

                where did i say that we should remove parks? i simply believe that having some temporary emergency shelters in parks might stimulate a willingness to fund permanent shelters among those that show less tolerance towards their houseless neighbors.

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              • MaxD July 13, 2016 at 1:21 pm

                The City has declared a housing emergency, but has done little to help other than letting people with mental/addiction issues fend for themselves on public lands. I wish they would commit to some temporary shelter like converting one of their parking garages into a staffed, temporary shelter with beds, curtains, toilets, washing facilities. If we are going to temporarily give up something, lets not choose a Park! Lets provide a temporary solution that increases people’s shelter, cleanliness, safety and comfort (and won’t get destroyed in the process).

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 1:24 pm

                This is my preferred solution as well (or at least a variant on it), but when I think it through, I end up with questions like what do you do when an occupant does something wildly inappropriate and has to be excluded from the site. Where will they end up?

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        • dwk July 13, 2016 at 11:11 am

          The city needs to find a building or buy a building. Camping outdoors is not humane and is not even a short term solution. Once a building for housing is in place, there should be NO outdoor camping in Portland public spaces.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 11:14 am

            Why is it somehow okay when well-off people “go camping” on purpose, but when someone is camping outside out of necessity, now it’s suddenly “not humane”?

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            • dwk July 13, 2016 at 11:20 am

              A ridiculous response….. Camping for “recreation” is a bit different than camping in the mud and rain all winter. Are you serious?

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            • dan July 13, 2016 at 12:01 pm

              You mean beside the “leave no trace” ethic for back country camping and the fact that developed campgrounds have facilities for waste?

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 12:07 pm

                Yes, that’s exactly what I’m arguing for: more services such as restrooms, refuse collection, and running water. How can someone reasonably expect people to live without these basic human services, then blame them for leaving garbage around?

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              • dan July 13, 2016 at 12:36 pm

                It’s easy to create the perfect solution when you’re spending other people’s money. What do you see the solution being with the money that Portland currently has available?

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 12:39 pm

                As I’ve stated before, allow sanctioned campsites around the city that provide for basic human necessities: such as running water, garbage receptacles, and bathrooms.

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      • Bjorn July 13, 2016 at 2:33 pm

        Having actually had a squatter camp of around 20 people in my backyard for a year and a half (they stole the fence separating my yard from the zombie house they were squatting) let me say that you have no idea what it is like to live next to one of these encampments until you have actually done so. Many of these folks keep aggressive pitbulls which they do not leash, we regularly had these dogs coming into our yard coming after us and our dogs. The drug use was rampant as were the needles. We frequently witnessed people beating each other up both with fists and weapons including a baseball bat. Air quality was a real problem as they frequently set fire to wood with lead paint, as well as garbage and parts of vehicles including RV’s they were stripping for metal onsite. You can’t just designate a lot and invite 50 people with severe mental illness and drug problems to come live on it without destroying the quality of life for everyone else in the neighborhood.

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        • Alex Reedin July 13, 2016 at 5:49 pm

          Just a reality check: there are 400 people camping in a small area of one poor neighborhood now, right next to people’s homes and businesses. Think about how that relates to what you experienced with 20 people camping near you. It’s not a choice of sanctioned camps or no homeless people. It’s a choice of the status quo (which is very hard for a lot of people) or sanctioned camps, or something else (almost certainly something much slower, if it involves significant funding).

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      • Jolly Dodger July 13, 2016 at 3:29 pm

        No, there’s an app for that now. Rent your backyard out for a nightly fee. Like air-b-nb. It cost . 25-40$ a nite. Great way to get some extra privileged cash from those without options.

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    • jeff July 13, 2016 at 10:41 am

      Can we use your front yard?

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 10:54 am

        Sure, take the parking space in front of my house. No one is using it. 😉

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        • dan July 13, 2016 at 12:06 pm

          What’s wrong with your front (or back) yards? Too close to home?

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      • BB July 13, 2016 at 11:05 am

        Why are these types of responses always the kneejerk reaction to someone suggesting more adequate available services for people living in extreme poverty? Putting down an individual for suggesting that there is more that we as a community can do to improve the lives of those of us who are worst off makes no sense. There is a reason we group together in these clumps despite the vast empty spaces right? So we can help each other and be better than we can alone?

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 11:26 am

          Because it’s an easy way to deflect the issue onto the person bringing it up instead of actually working to address the issue. I see this all the time from the NIMBYs: “how would you like it if someone built next door do your house?!”

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 11:27 am

            “how would you like it if someone built (something I don’t like) next door do your house?!”

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 11:41 am

              Often because the people doing the proposing are in no danger of having it built next to them. It’s easy, at some remove, to dismiss other people’s concerns when there is no possibility of being impacted yourself. What you dismiss as NIMBYism is actually a form of empathy.

              You say you’d welcome a homeless camp in front of your house, yet there is no possibility this would happen, unless you yourself invited people to camp there (which you haven’t done). And then you dismiss the concerns of people you would impose that choice on as if they meant nothing.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 11:55 am

                I disagree – there is definitely the possibility of a homeless people living in front of my house. People on NextDoor have been complaining about RV’s parking in front of their house and threatening to call the police on them. I can honestly say that if I was in this situation, I would tolerate it and even help out by letting them use my garbage cans.

                I am lucky enough to be able to afford a house in Richmond, but I know not everyone is so fortuitous. Who am I to judge someone else’s situation? I often say that I believe that everyone deserves to live in our beloved close-in walkable communities and that includes homeless people.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 12:01 pm

                An RV parked in front of your house is a very different thing than the camping we’re talking about along the Springwater, or what you’re proposing for the “underused parking lot” next to someone else’s house.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 12:04 pm

                No, you’re talking about all the assumptions people make about individuals living along the Springwater. I am talking about homeless people in general. A homeless person living nearby does not equate to “more garbage, more drugs”. The sooner we can break that awful stereotype, the sooner we can develop some compassion for our fellow humans.

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              • dwk July 13, 2016 at 12:05 pm

                You really have no clue who some of these people are do you?
                Why don’t you hop over to the Springwater, find some campers and invite them back to you place?

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              • Ted Timmons (Contributor) July 13, 2016 at 12:06 pm

                Kinda the same thing, actually. We’re not talking about a Marathon Coach with sewer hookups.

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              • dan July 13, 2016 at 12:41 pm

                Seriously… if there’s the “possibility”, why not make it a reality?

                I’m sure a quick add on Craigslist would help you find several folks interested in setting up camp at your house.

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              • Cora Potter July 13, 2016 at 4:36 pm

                We’ve actually observed RV campers (that were parked in the spot for weeks) dumping raw sewage into Johnson Creek from the bridge on SE 92nd.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 12:01 pm

                Also, those same NIMBYs make the same argument for not wanting to live next to triplexes or apartment buildings. Well, I already live next to two duplexes and a four-plex and it’s not a problem. I actually like it because there are more “eyes on the street”. I would also gladly welcome a large apartment building next door to me.

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              • Bjorn July 13, 2016 at 4:21 pm

                There is a huge difference between a 4 plex with mandatory garbage service and sanitation and a homeless camp with neither.

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              • Lester Burnham July 13, 2016 at 3:00 pm

                Kinda like once again the east PDX is going to take it in the shorts with a new homeless center where the current Multnomah County Sheriff’s office is. I’m sure the area will improve with this great new addition.

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    • Todd Hudson July 13, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Your neighborhood first!

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 11:01 am

        Sure! I would welcome one in Richmond.

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        • rachel b July 13, 2016 at 1:58 pm

          Please don’t.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 4:11 pm

          Where in Richmond would you put a homeless camp? You know the neighborhood… where would you put it?

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          • Alex Reedin July 13, 2016 at 5:53 pm

            This is right across Powell in Creston-Kenilworth, but the empty lot behind Safari doesn’t seem like a horrible place at first glance, assuming additional fences provided some distance between the campers and the residences on 31st and Francis. I’m not saying literally every neighborhood association, but something close, yes. A parking structure also seems like a good option – but how much level ground is there really in a parking structure?

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          • Alex Reedin July 14, 2016 at 8:13 am

            Also, I hesitate to say it because the nearby Catholic Charities apartments are the only poor area for some distance around, but Powell Park wouldn’t be a bad spot either.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty July 14, 2016 at 12:13 pm

              You mean in the only open space available to the kids in the Catholic Charities apartments?

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              • Alex Reedin July 14, 2016 at 2:33 pm

                Well yes – but I would hope to cram a small playground into a corner of the Cleveland High track field to compensate. Or maybe in Cleveland High’s parking lot. If we could all rally around solving this problem together, across bureaucratic boundaries, perhaps getting PPS to help would happen.

                There are also poor kids in Lents, just sayin. Probably many more than in the Catholic Charities apartments.

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              • rachel b July 14, 2016 at 11:37 pm

                This is a terrible idea. The City needs one or two designated areas. Spreading the problem (and I mean the troublemakers–not the benign) across the entire city and smack in the yards of taxpaying residents is not a viable, or wise, solution.

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              • Alex Reedin July 15, 2016 at 6:42 am

                There are three main issues I see with that strategy – 1) camps or parking garage shelters of that size would be too big for the residents to effectively self-organize and self-police, which would lead to a high level of staff involvement (for which there is no current funding source) to avoid violence. 2) There are thousands of homeless Portlanders right now, so even logistically, I doubt if we could house them all in say one downtown parking garage. Not humane to camp on a slanted section, and we’d probably need to maintain the driving lane clear in order to allow port-a-potty cleaning. My rough guess is you’d need at least four garages. 3) The ultimate objective is to secure funding for housing; distributing homeless Portlanders around the city puts everyone’s skin in the game, whereas concentrating people downtown makes it a “downtown” problem (in the same way that it’s now a “Central City, Overlook, and Lents” problem. I moved from FoPo to Lents and the level of online chatter about homelessness I saw probably went up 100x).

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty July 15, 2016 at 12:33 pm

                You’d obviously build platforms to deal with sloped floors… there’s lots of room in even a single structure.

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    • MaxD July 13, 2016 at 11:17 am

      These people need to be housed in structures that meet safety and health codes. They need support for mental illness and addiction and job training. They also need to comply with laws regarding using drugs, stealing, public defecation/urination, etc. The City of Portland is codifying a new, lower class of citizens with separate rules and laws and it should not be tolerated.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 11:58 am

        I agree we need more housing and services for people suffering from drug addiction and mental illness. However, those things take time. In the interim, what are we supposed to do, kick all the homeless people out of Portland, then invite them back in when all the housing is ready?

        I also disagree that we are “codifying a new, lower class of citizens”. This is about equity and bringing people less fortunate than ourselves up to equal footing. The city should not be discriminating against people just because they happen to not have a building to live in.

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        • dwk July 13, 2016 at 12:28 pm

          It is hard to respond and be worthy of your selfless progressivism…..

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 12:33 pm

            I find selfless progressivism to be far more effective than belligerent insults. 😉

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            • dwk July 13, 2016 at 12:42 pm

              Effective at what? So far “selfless progressivism” has accomplished nothing in regards to the “camping” situation in Portland.
              In what world are my comments “belligerent”?

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        • MaxD July 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm

          I am not sure how you can say “This is about equity and bringing people less fortunate than ourselves up to equal footing”. WE are shunting people off on to road and rail R.O.W.’s, far from the meager services the CIty offers, and telling them to set up tent cities that they are supposed to manage themselves. Isolated places like Hazelnut Grove or the Springwater are not easily patrolled by police and cries for help will not heard by neighbors. There are zero sanitation requirements, no building permits. Addicted people seek these out BECAUSE they is no enforcement of drug laws. There is no equity here- the City is shoveling people into a slum. There are campers/homeless who want this, and advocate for this, but that does not mean it is a viable or reasonable solution. Part of being a citizen is adhering to laws and regulations for one’s own protection and for the protection of the community. Setting up a system where people are asked to live outside the rules, laws and regulation of our community is creating a separate class of citizen with fewer rights, protections and obligations.

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          • Dan July 13, 2016 at 4:00 pm

            Well said, thank you.

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          • dwk July 13, 2016 at 4:10 pm

            This ^^^^…….

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          • soren July 13, 2016 at 8:14 pm

            “Part of being a citizen is adhering to laws and regulations for one’s own protection and for the protection of the community.”

            In representative democracies part of being a citizen is also choosing to ignore, disobey, and/or actively oppose laws and regulation that are harmful to the greater good. IMO, houseless camps are part of this fine tradition of citizen-led protest.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 8:31 pm

              Citizen led protest? Really?

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            • dwk July 13, 2016 at 9:58 pm

              Aw yes, always nice for the proletariat to be down groveling in the mud while the intellectual class looks down from their Ivory Tower (or OHSU).
              Makes one feel all warm & fuzzy…..

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              • soren July 15, 2016 at 4:00 pm

                i don’t live at ohsu. i live in a 650 square foot apartment that i pay $500/month in shared rent.

                why does my support for people who have no alternative to camping outside cause you to attack me personally?

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      • soren July 13, 2016 at 1:15 pm

        These structures do not exist and our current policy of dehumanizing sweeps has utterly failed. Temporary emergency facilities are badly needed until Portland’s funding of social services catches up with its decency deficit. If you don’t support temporary facilities then where do you think the houseless should sleep?

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        • Brian July 13, 2016 at 4:29 pm

          If we create places for the houseless to live, what are the expectations? If someone is mentally and physically able, what should they be expected to do? If they are not, what should be done? What if housing/shelter is provided and people still choose to live along the Springwater? What should be done?

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 4:33 pm

            And those who will say “this solution won’t work for me because of X, Y, and Z.” How far do we go to accommodate people who may have legitimate (or not) extraordinary needs? All difficult questions that need to be answered.

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            • Brian July 13, 2016 at 5:02 pm

              And at what cost to local citizens for a regional/state/federal issue? Lets be honest, no one from the West coast is heading to Wisconsin to set up a tent.

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          • dan July 13, 2016 at 5:19 pm

            If housing is provided, it is legal to require people to stay there rather than camping on public land, according to the Supreme Court. It is not legal to say “you can’t camp here” without providing an alternative.

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      • Beth H July 13, 2016 at 4:54 pm

        Walmart and other corporations like it have already helped to “codify a new, lower class of citizens with separate rules and laws” while the Federal government has basically looked the other way. (Separation of the truly destitute from the rest of us has been going on for centuries.) These issues are not new; the difference is that we cannot provide real job training if there aren’t jobs for folks to apply for; and we cannot provide affordable housing if developers refuse to build it and state and Federal governments do not subsidize it. And none of that can happen if Americans are unwilling (or unable) to pay the taxes necessary to fund reform.

        I rode the Springwater during my last volunteer shift for Sunday parkways in May. The homeless camps were clogged to overflowing with people, animals and soggy furniture. Cigarette smoke (and perhaps marijuana smoke too, I don’t know) wafted visibly from several sites; and a couple of unleashed dogs nipped at my heels as I rode past. I saw no evidence of “care” for residences, nor did I see the “gardens” described in another post here. All I saw was destitution and neglect and endless despair. I also got into it briefly with two people who did not want the Parkways event coming through “their” area. I told them we’d be gone in a couple of hours and that seemed to calm them down. But I also will no longer ride the Springwater Corridor. Because at this point, it no longer belongs to anyone but the people who are camping there, and I just don’t have the energy to press the point.

        I will leave it to the conspiracy thoerists as to whether all of this portends some great economic shakedown wherein everyone gets knocked down the ladder several notches, and the hundreds of campers become the thousands. But in any event, that we cannot care for the least fortunate among us is surely a sign of worse things to come.

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    • Charley July 13, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      I actually used to have homeless people camping in my backyard, because it was secluded and easy to access. My wife and I installed a large fence, though, because of the trash, random noises, and, most importantly, my wife’s fear of going outside to empty the garbage at night, or to leave for work after dark (we are musicians). One morning, we found a 7 foot ladder stashed in some bushes beneath a window. It’s not nice, living with troubled people. Can we be blamed for insisting on the safety of our own home and garden?

      I’m no fan of NIMBYism regarding bike lanes and other safety improvements to our public streets, but I have a lot of sympathy for those who don’t feel that their neighborhood is the best place for a locus of social disfunction, crime, noise, drug use. . . I’ve seen it in my backyard, and I don’t think it’s fair to impose that on anyone else.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 3:17 pm

        You’re still operating under the assumption that all homeless people bring those problems with them. Just as with cyclists, the vast majority of homeless people are law abiding, but you only notice the bad ones.

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        • Brian July 13, 2016 at 4:57 pm

          I agree with you, but we aren’t talking about the houseless population in general. One of my students is classified as houseless. She is 16 and lives with her friend. She has the highest GPA in her class. Not exactly the same as downtown gutterpunks. We are talking about a subset of the houseless population who are inhabiting the Springwater. Is it possible that a large percentage of this group brings these problems with them?

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        • dwk July 13, 2016 at 5:07 pm

          Show me your statistic that the majority of “homeless” are law abiding?
          I doubt you know that at all. Why are you so dismissive of all those who have commented here with their own personal experience?
          I have no idea whether the “campers” along the Springwater are law abiding or not. Maybe you could go over, hang out or invite a few to camp on your property and give us some first hand information.
          There have been a lot of good suggestions here about what our society needs to do. Telling people what “assumptions” they have or not when they are actually dealing with it on a day to day basis is pretty pompous….

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          • Ted Timmons (Contributor) July 13, 2016 at 5:20 pm

            If they aren’t law abiding, do they deserve to live in a camp such as this?

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            • dwk July 13, 2016 at 5:29 pm

              OF course not. If you read any of this thread you would know that a lot of us want real housing supplied for those who want it and NO camping of any kind in the public owned parks or land.
              I am not sure why this is even controversial?

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              • soren July 13, 2016 at 8:08 pm

                “NO camping of any kind in the public owned parks or land.”

                so where do you propose the houseless go? private land? prison?

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              • dwk July 14, 2016 at 6:03 am

                Do you actually read anything here before you send your Snark?
                A number of us have advocated for real facilities for people in need.

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              • soren July 15, 2016 at 4:07 pm

                the un-funded non-existent facilities that you and others here keep on referring to? to hell with those “facilities”.

                my question was not where do you propose the houseless should go years from now. my question was where do you propose the hundreds of houseless people who are being swept out of their homes NOW go.

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  • jeff July 13, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Very little of that article made any sense at all, including the quotes from ‘Crash’.

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    • dwk July 13, 2016 at 10:48 am

      The article mostly confirmed the stereotype that the “campers” are mostly young drug addicts. What else is new?

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      • dan July 13, 2016 at 12:04 pm

        and that cyclists are “Spandex-clad flyers…”

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        • Maxadders July 13, 2016 at 1:03 pm

          Ugh. When I use the Springwater I’m just trying to get home from work without being hassled.

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  • Chris I July 13, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Regarding the comment about human feces recently appearing. That is definitely not the case. I have been dodging human feces on the Springwater for the last few months. And I refuse to ask permission to pass the groups blocking the path. Had a few close calls recently…

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    • Maxadders July 13, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      Same here. Groups are blocking the path to intimidate trail users and claim the area for their own. It’s only a matter of time before a bicyclist or pedestrian is assaulted. These groups have NOT been friendly in my experience, even when treated with patience and courtesy. They’re not interested in sharing the space, they want it all for themselves.

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      • gretchin July 13, 2016 at 3:20 pm

        i actually -was- threatened with a knife and have had things thrown at me.

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        • Maxadders July 14, 2016 at 11:41 am

          Ugh. Every time I ride though “The Gauntlet” I swear it will be my last. Seriously considering bringing a weapon for self-defense, which I would have considered alarmist and ridiculous just a few years ago. Not anymore! Personal safety is now a legitimate, urgent concern in any public natural space in Portland. Sad to think that I may soon need to carry a firearm just to go hiking within city limits.

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          • gretchin July 15, 2016 at 10:29 am

            Yes, I have stopped using the Springwater, which is my best way to practically everything.

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  • Cory P July 13, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    I have great concern about what affect these camps will have on future multi use paths in the region. How many neighbors will fight a new path because they fear homeless camps just off their backyards. I accept that the real risk of this is low but any excuse to appose could be damaging.

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    • Chris I July 13, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      This is often overlooked, and is very important. How likely is it that we are going to get a path to Lake Oswego if the wealthy adjacent residents believe the path will be home to hundreds of urban campers?

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. July 13, 2016 at 12:44 pm

        Please. Everyone knows those people take the Crime Train instead.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty July 13, 2016 at 12:44 pm

        This is a great point, but, to be fair, I’m not sure that poor adjacent residents would be happy about the situation either.

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        • Maxadders July 13, 2016 at 1:09 pm

          Agreed, I live along the 205 path and it is not what I’d consider a “rich” neighborhood.

          When I bought my place I thought that living near a MUP was an asset. If I’d had any way of knowing what our path would become in just a few years time, I would have bought elsewhere. Living next to any public owned land in Portland is now a straight-up liability.

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        • Chris I July 14, 2016 at 6:41 am

          I mentioned their wealth because we all know that wealth = power and influence. Unhappy wealthy landowners are going to be a much larger barrier than unhappy poor landowners. It is unfortunate, but it is also the reality.

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          • Random July 14, 2016 at 11:12 am

            “Unhappy wealthy landowners are going to be a much larger barrier than unhappy poor landowners. It is unfortunate, but it is also the reality.”

            It also helps that Lake Oswego is a different political jurisdiction, in a different county. Charlie Hales doesn’t make the rules in Lake Oswego, fortunately.

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      • lop July 14, 2016 at 6:03 pm

        If they bring that up point out how camp free the stretch from South Waterfront to the Sellwood bridge is.

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    • Dan July 13, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      It’s absolutely changed my attitude towards multi use paths. I’ve never been a big user of MUPs since I prefer the road generally, but what I’ve seen on the Springwater, the Eastbank Esplanade, Waterfront Park, and even in the recent connector by Denver Ave/PIR certainly makes me want to avoid them and I wouldn’t support any new construction.

      It would be a terrible thing for Springwater neighbors if the city were to institutionalize camping there by providing semi-permanent facilities to enable these lawless encampments.

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      • Cory P July 13, 2016 at 1:13 pm

        I never really understood the need for MUPs either, till I had a kid. Now I see them as essential. Many cyclists and skaters wont ride on anything but a MUP.

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        • Dan July 13, 2016 at 2:14 pm

          I have kids, too, and I hear what you’re saying. I also know lots of folks who need the security of separation from auto traffic and only feel comfortable on a MUP. But I won’t take my kids through the hobo jungle on the Springwater, and I wouldn’t recommend several of the MUPs in Portland to someone trying to get more comfortable on a bike.

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      • rachel b July 13, 2016 at 2:01 pm

        I’ve voted for every parks bond, ever, but as things are won’t support one again.

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        • Bjorn July 14, 2016 at 8:32 am

          I agree, the city is in the process of building a new park for our neighborhood, but many neighbors are kind of dreading its completion since there is a good chance it will just be overrun by garbage and drug use from campers like several of the vacant lots nearby already are. I can’t support building more parks when the city refuses to take care of the ones we have.

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    • CrisW July 13, 2016 at 9:54 pm

      This is already happening- Metro posted that people at a recent public discussion of the proposed Troutdale/Gresham path alignments were very concerned about the trail encouraging homeless camping and being unsafe to travel.

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      • rachel b July 14, 2016 at 11:41 pm

        With the City ceding parks and trails to the chaos of unregulated camping, these are legitimate fears, Bjorn & ChrisW. Hoping the best for both your neighborhoods. The whole issue is beyond exasperating at this point. The City’s actively feeding chaos.

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      • gretchin July 15, 2016 at 10:32 am

        Oh, dang. Because that trail would be awesome.

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  • Cora Potter July 13, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    For folks that don’t venture out the trail where the numbers start increasing – you can view the camps from the safety of PNCA starting next week. Lents Resident and drone Captain Adam Simmons is having an exhibition of footage and photos he shot along the Springwater and other sites around the city to document the camps.

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  • Jillian July 13, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I think there is an error – this article says Crash Anarchy’s gender as “your mileage my vary”, but the linked article refers to their gender as “answer may vary”, which makes a bit more sense. I wasn’t sure what mileage had to do with gender…

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  • Jon July 13, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    I spent some time talking to a person visiting the company I work for on business from Pennsylvania. He said he was shocked at the number of camps he saw in Portland. He said there was nothing like that in the big cities in Pennsylvania.

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  • Mike Sanders July 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    If this is now the largest set of homeless camps in the whole state, and who knows, maybe the largest in the NW – if I were the Metro Council, which funded the SWT’s construction originally, I’d be furious. The City and State governments have dropped the ball. Hales says he can’t do anything due to a court ruling in another state, to do anything about this. The fact that this situation is now so bad is only now starting to get noticed by local TV, notably KGW. This would be page one news in any other city but not here. Have our politics grown so bad that de facto ignorance is now standard policy? Remember, the SWT is on the Rails to Trails Cinservancy’s national Hall of Fame list. Shouldn’t that count for something?

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    • David Hampsten July 14, 2016 at 3:11 am

      If the mainstream media “recognizes” a problem, then they feel obliged to follow up on it. By not officially “knowing” about any problems, there is no obligation to get both sides of the story and actually talk with homeless folks. TV reporters in my experience tend to be even more sensitive to avoiding weird people than the most NIMBY writer on this blog.

      I’m thankful I no longer live in Portland. It looks like I got out just in the nick of time. Greensboro may be a bike hell, but it’s a far more friendly community, and much cheaper.

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      • rachel b July 14, 2016 at 11:53 pm

        There has been a good deal of reportage on the campers and the homeless here, from their perspective. The Oregonian did a highly sympathetic (some, including me, would say very one-sided) year-long series on homelessness called “Our Homeless Crisis.” It focused heavily on homeless activist and homeless voices:

        Dirk Vanderhart of the Portland Mercury has regularly and aggressively supported camps and campers in Portland, weekly vilifying “NIMBY” neighbors and naysayers on the pages of the Mercury.

        Willamette Week has given the homeless of Portland voice, too–there was an in-depth story that involved interviewing several of the homeless (none of whom wished to get off the streets, several who were drug addicts). Can’t find the link.

        Oregon Public Broadcasting did a video story, interviewing the residents of Hazelnut Grove (who likewise choose a life “outside” over getting services):

        I’ve seen no like in-depth reportage covering neighbors’ voices.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 15, 2016 at 11:27 am

          that’s a valid point Rachel. From my experience as a reporter one reason you don’t see as much coverage from neighbors is because they’re not exactly eager to put their names to their concerns in the media. It’s common that when people know their views will be unpopular with the public – especially around hot-button, sensitive topics – they often hide from public attention on purpose. happens all the time when someone call me to rant and complaint about about bikes or some other issue they assume our readership would be sympathetic too and then when I ask if i can attribute their comments to them they backpedal and say no.

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          • Alex Reedin July 15, 2016 at 11:20 pm

            I have to say, on this particular issue, I suspect you wouldn’t have trouble finding neighbors raring to give you a piece of their mind publicly. The “I Love Lents” Facebook page is absolutely bursting with complaints about and compassion towards the homeless campers in the Springwater area. I’ve considered unfollowing the group simply because it diminishes my wellbeing to read about the topic so much (without seemingly contributing to positive change one bit) in addition to riding through the camps multiple times a week.

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          • rachel b July 16, 2016 at 12:44 am

            Thanks, Jonathan. I can see that being the case. But I do wonder if, in this age of social media-fueled conspicuous compassion, reporters err on the side of going after the stories and angles they see as making them look “good.” It’s true too that homeless advocates and agencies have done a stellar job of gaining the ear of City government, but I don’t think that’s due to a lack of (frustrated) neighbor and neighborhood input. Basically what it comes down to is that no one wants to have a finger pointed at them followed by “You hate the homeless!” or “Where is your compassion?”–especially in Portland, which seems to have gained a lot of self-styled (and I would say naive and attention-seeking) ‘advocates’ in recent years. It’s insidious and irritating, the way kneejerk compassion-war fingerpointing commences on the heels of even the slightest, very understandable expression of aggravation with our current situation. And I really would like to see more in-depth reporting and interviewing of neighbors–along the Springwater, for example. It seems like many of them are more than happy to speak up. More power to ’em.

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  • still riding after all that July 13, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    My sympathy for the homeless comes to a screeching halt right here:

    “Alvarado says recently he’s had to stop and basically ask permission from campers to bike through crowds blocking the path.”

    Get them the HECK out of there so that those of us who PAY to live here can walk around or ride our bikes without fear of being attacked.

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  • John July 13, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    The city stopped patrolling the Springwater years ago due to an unwillingness to solve jurisdictional issues or commit basic resources. I remember back in 2011 or 2012 seeing open prostitution (TMI people), witnessing drug deals, getting harassed by intoxicated persons, and swerving to avoid human feces on the trail. This was ALL ON ONE RIDE. In subsequent years the homeless have gotten more and more aggressive. Just last week I was riding the section between OMSI and Sellwood and counted several dozen tents while smelling burning plastic and keeping an eye on unleashed pit bulls. I think the homeless population has grown to crisis levels in the last 18 months, but the dangerous situation on the spring water is the result of years of neglect by a City that won’t commit to even basic law enforcement. I think the Mayor’s rules regarding encampments are very reasonable and humanitarian, too bad they haven’t been enforced from day one.

    For those of you about to suggest I host homeless people, let me say that I have – albeit involuntarily. I have a small condo in NW PDX i was able to afford years ago before prices became insane. From time to time people like to use my porch to sleep. Some are quiet and have a “leave no trace ethic”, but most leave garbage and a few have left human shit for me to clean up from my steps. They also tend to yell loudly at 3am due to mental illness, deafness, drugs, and/or all of the above. Not to mention all of the garbage and human shit under the 405, on he waterfront, and in the north park blocks…

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    • rachel b July 14, 2016 at 11:56 pm

      “…but the dangerous situation on the spring water is the result of years of neglect by a City that won’t commit to even basic law enforcement”

      Hear, hear.

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  • Mark Smith July 13, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Here is the bottom line. Word on the street is that Portland is the most hospitable to living outside. Or the other way to put it, it is the least the less hostile.

    You are welcome Portland.

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  • Mark Smith July 14, 2016 at 8:46 am

    It’s quite simple. You enforce the law. Post a 10 day notice. Anything left will be thrown away. Period.

    Let them move some where else.

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    • Maxadders July 14, 2016 at 11:45 am

      Exactly. We don’t need to solve everyone’s problems. We need to solve OUR problems.

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  • xpdx July 14, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    I wouldn’t give two shits how many people were camping near the trail if:

    1. I rarely saw them.
    2. They cleaned up after themselves
    3. Didn’t block the path with objects or themselves- or leave dangerous glass in the path.
    4. The policed themselves.

    People have been camping along that trail for years. I would see them every once in a while and it never bothered me. I left them alone and they left me alone FOR YEARS. This isn’t what is happening now. They are not leaving me alone- they are blocking the path, they are aggressive, it’s a problem. I really really don’t care how many people camp there as long as they don’t bother other people.

    I really wish they could just manage that. If I was one of those folks who managed to camp there for years under the radar, I would be PISSED at all of these new comers fucking it up for the responsible people.

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  • SE July 14, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    For years I’ve trucked my bike over to the parking area at Beggars Tick to ride on SpringWater. There is parking for 4 or maybe 5 vehicles.
    For the last 3 months + , two (now) permanent RV’s/minivans have been there (never moving). Now there is also a garbage trailer taking up a place too.
    So 1 car (or if you squeeze in ..2) can park there, if you feel comfortable leaving your vehicle sandwiched between them.

    I notified the city’s problem camper line … canned email response , that’s all. They have no interest if enforcing parking regs … essentially surrendering to our new residents.

    Garbage, garbage everywhere…and not a city to help 🙁

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  • SE July 14, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    KATU just reports that after a walk-thru , the estimate is between 800-1000 “campers” in the SpringWater/205 area. “It MAY be the largest homeless camp in the country”

    WWeek: Springwater Corridor may be home to largest homeless camp in US

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    • lop July 14, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      Which article said 800-1000? Your KATU link only says 500.

      “Though exact numbers of homeless individuals who have set up camp there are unknown, advocates say there could be as many as 500 people camping along a 2-mile corridor each night. “

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  • wsbob July 14, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    “…Safe Sleep allows for a maximum of 8 structures or individuals in a single campsite, so Camplandia is certainly not allowed under Safe Sleep or any other city policies, past or future. ” schmid

    The name “Camplandia”, is certainly whimsical. Kind of funny I suppose some people may think, but this phenomena of increasing numbers of makeshift residences forming a big camp, in a public park, is no joke. I presume the name refers to the biggest of the campsites along the Springwater.

    In none of the comments or story, do I recall reading a count of the individual residences, i.e. tents, shacks, etc, or the number of people living there in those residences. And over what square feet of area the camp occupies. From descriptions give in comments here, it sounds as though this one campsite along the trail, may have thirty or more people living there.

    Clean water and sanitary waste disposal, is essential to avoid outbreaks of serious illness. People commenting here have mentioned camp sanitation, or the lack of it. I’m wondering if the residents of this camp have shown the knowledge or incentive to build even so much as a basic community pit latrine.

    In the near, or maybe longer term future, it may be, that cities will not be able to provide at the least, even the most basic shelter for many people that are homeless, or are soon to become homeless. In that instance, people in the makeshift camps, had better try work to put together the cleanest, safest campsite they can manage, with whatever they can cobble together.

    At least initially, one of the strong points of Occupy Portland, though given, it was set up in the center of the city, close to some basic amenities, and had a very strong base of grass roots support, was its services organizational structure. It had a good kitchen, porta potties, wash stations. There were some smart, committed people helping keep Occupy going. Of course, Occupy did fall apart despite the tech and basic organizational efforts…but it may not have, if its location had been one less under the eye of the city, as land along the Springwater is.

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  • SE July 15, 2016 at 8:34 am

    The city is prepared to pay for motel space for homeless people on the cusp of getting housing, until they’re ready to move into permanent housing, instead of losing track of them after they leave the trail.

    if they are going to camp and there’s not a shelter for them, that they do that in small groups in places where they cause as few problems for their neighbors as possible.”

    Will people get arrested if they camp on the trail after the cleanup?

    “That’s the last resort,” Hales said. “Criminalizing homelessness and sending people to jail because they’re camping in the wrong place is not our first, second or third choice.”

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  • SE July 15, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Hales to PPB: ‘Your hands aren’t tied, do your job’
    Portland Police Bureau “completely has the power” to deal with homeless

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  • Mark Smith July 15, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Give folks free stuff, free land and amazingly….they flock.

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  • Ted Timmons (Contributor) July 15, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Good article on Seattle’s homeless issues. They have taken a different approach than we have- notably, they have some partial solutions in place, rather than all-or-nothing. That includes ‘microhouse communities’ (which are emergency shelters, not DADU-style homes) and self-organized camps with city programs.

    It has problems, of course:

    The approach has critics other than Poppe. Across the country, policymakers are moving away from a transitional housing model that seeks to provide homeless people with temporary residence and supportive services like behavioral healthcare and job training in order to become “ready” before being permanently housed. The pendulum is swinging toward Housing First, a model that aims to give people permanent housing first, and address the causes that led to their homelessness second. Given that transitional housing programs cost dramatically more without providing measurably better outcomes, the move toward Housing First has been widely hailed as a step closer to resolving a deep social problem that has vexed communities for generations.

    and a legal framework that certainly applies to Portland too:

    A federal task force has discouraged cities from breaking up illegal encampments, saying that doing so only makes it harder for people to move into permanent housing. In one case, the Department of Justice ruled that it’s unconstitutional to criminalize sleeping on the street if there’s nowhere else for that person to go.

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