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Portland will begin clearing more homeless camps after pandemic pause


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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — The city of Portland is promising to do more to clean up homeless camps following a year with fewer sweeps due to the pandemic. Monday is the first day of the renewed efforts.

It’s been more than a year since the city of Portland put a pause on its normal, routine sweeps of homeless camps.

“When the pandemic happened, it changed everything dramatically,” manager Cameron Bell with Homeplace Furniture and Design said.

Businesses around the Delta Park area said it’s been stunning to watch the camps, structures, cars and garbage pile up like never before.

“We had over 1,500 needles and we had to call the city to come in and help with because it was just horrific and feces left everywhere,” Bell said.

But now Bell feels more hopeful as city councilors recently voted to pick up the pace again to clear out and clean camps – as many as ten times more weekly — following the long hiatus put in place for health and safety concerns stemming from the pandemic.

“For all the businesses around, a weight would be lifted, in the sense that they are getting the help that they need,” Bell said. “But then our streets and our areas our clean and people can comfortably come and do their shopping.”

Right across the street from Homeplace, a long line of campers waited to return bottles for cash Sunday afternoon.

“Things are a little bit harder,” Amanda Emry, who is homeless, said.

As Emry waits for her turn, the Portland native told us she’s been homeless on and off for the last 14 years.

“I left a bad relationship, so that’s why I’m out here again,” Emry said. “But that’s kind of by choice. I’d rather be alive than not be.”

Emry said she’s not interested in staying in a shelter and she’s really hoping the large camp along the I-5 ramp and North Victory Boulevard will be spared.

“It might be ODOT property that I’m on,” Emry said. “I’m not really sure. I hate moving. I hate packing up and moving. For being homeless, I want to be as stable as possible.”

City cleanup crews are instructed to prioritize homeless camps with eight or more structures, those that block sidewalks, pathways, and entrances, impede schools, pose a high risk for fire or health hazards or attract criminal behavior.

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