Author: Blair Best
PORTLAND, Ore. — For sale signs line what were once sought-after neighborhoods in North Portland. Many families are selling their homes due to an increase in violence and homeless camps in that area.
“It makes you not feel that great about living here,” said Greg Dilkes, who has lived in North Portland for 30 years. “It makes living in the neighborhood harder, not as congenial as it could be.”
Dilkes said the homeless camps along the Peninsula Crossing Trail near his home have changed the area.
“It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve actually seriously thought about moving,” he said.
“Mental health, drug addiction and just not having access to housing,” added Mark Smith, who shares a backyard with the camp.
Smith said he and his partner often don’t feel safe walking alone or tending to their gardens. “Every day if you go from one end of the street to the other, you’re confronting some very difficult situations, people in really dire straits.”
“It’s a little scary because I know there is mental illness and that concerns me,” said Smith’s partner Maria Inocencio.
“We are the most harmless people you’ll ever meet,” said TT Sanchez who lives in one of the camps along the Peninsula Crossing Trail. “They shouldn’t be scared of us for what because we live outside? That’s the only reason you should be scared of us because we live outside so if we lived in four walls and a house and stuff would you still be scared of us?”
North Portland neighbors told KGW at least three families along McKenna Avenue are leaving due to nearby homeless camps. Real estate broker Lauren Iaquinta sees it first hand.
“I would say the migration to the suburbs, I’ve seen quite a bit in the last two years,” she said. “Most people don’t want to have to worry about if they can leave their car parked in their driveway overnight without maybe having it broken into. It’s a pretty testy subject.”
When working with clients, Iaquinta now vets the areas to see if there are nearby homeless camps.
“It’s neighborhood by neighborhood. You can be driving through North Portland and you’re in this lovely area where there’s no issues, and then you can make a turn around the corner and have homeless camps there. It’s kind of sad. I’ve been doing this for 10 years here in Portland and it’s changed quite a bit.”
The city is planning to build a Safe Rest Village along Peninsula Crossing Trail where many homeless campers in the area could go, but there’s no timeline for when that project will be completed. And when it is completed, it will be a temporary village that will only be there for about three years. After that, there are plans for a permanent affordable housing development to take its place.
As for the people currently camping along the trail, the city’s Safe Rest Village team said Portland’s Impact Reduction Program outreach workers and navigation teams have visited weekly, since before the Safe Rest Village was announced, to offer them services, shelter options and other resources to meet their immediate needs. Additionally, the Safe Rest Village team has met with some of the campers, and many have expressed interest in the outdoor shelter model.