PORTLAND– Portland officials have asked service agencies to intensify efforts to find shelter for homeless people in anticipation of the closure of a homeless camping site.
The city doesn’t have enough shelter beds for the estimated 500 people living on the 21-mile Springwater Corridor, which will stop allowing camping in August, Mayor Charlie Hales told The Oregonian/Oregon Live.
“The Springwater is going to have to be off limits,” said Hales. “We’re going to try to accommodate homeless people in the short term here and there.”
The Springwater is a popular path among bicyclists, joggers and outdoor enthusiasts. But the mayor says its homeless population has damaged nature areas and caused public safety concerns for nearby residents and businesses. Police recently accused a homeless man of shooting another homeless man on the trail and firefighters extinguished a fire there on Monday.
City officials will begin posting notices on the trail July 29 warning about the cleanup efforts that will begin on August 1.
Portland officials said in December that they had 747 emergency beds available year-round and 361 more for winter. City and county leaders have announced more projects since.
“We are going to try to make sure the places they find to sleep are the least problematic for everyone else, as possible,” Hales said. “That first they go to shelter beds, whether it’s the ones that the city and county provide or the ones that churches provide.”
If there’s not a shelter available, Hales says people should camp “in small groups in places where they cause as few problems for their neighbors as possible.”
He says arresting people for continuing to camp along the trail will be a last resort.
“Criminalizing homelessness and sending people to jail because they’re camping in the wrong place is not our first, second or third choice,” said Hales.
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