PORTLAND, Ore. — The sound of Portland Bureau of Transportation tow trucks echoed from a large homeless encampment buried in the woods off North Columbia Boulevard on Tuesday afternoon. It’s a camp that’s been growing in the St. John’s neighborhood for years.
“It’s taken a toll on all the businesses out here,” said Jeff White, who runs Curt’s RV and Storage, located right next to the camp. Those living at the camp have targeted his business by breaking in and stealing from him numerous times, he says. “It’s been way too long. I know there’s camps everywhere, but it’s been like six, eight months.”
It was a hectic scene inside the camp on Tuesday as city crews and police worked to clear it. The homeless residents told KGW that some of the towed vehicles were stolen.
KGW reported on the same camp twice this summer. At the time it was known as “Grace’s Oasis,” and the homeless woman who ran it illegally charged people rent to camp on the government-owned property.
“This definitely does not help on the road to getting our life back on our feet at all,” said Brian Mckenzie, who’s lived in the camp for six months. “There are some troublemakers out here. Some of it needs to be cleaned up, but some of us … like, I work a job, he works a job, some of us are just trying to live out here and they’re basically telling us we don’t deserve a place to stay.”
His plan is to leave for a couple of nights and come back after it’s all cleared.
“Really, that’s how everybody does it,” he explained.
Mckenzie knows that regardless of where he sets up camp, it’s just a matter of time before he’s told to move. When asked if city crews had offered him shelter or housing resources, he said PBOT mentioned it to them a week ago.
As for nearby businesses, they’re still holding their breath.
“We’re still going to be doing our security patrols and so forth, we’re constantly having issues … I would like to think the issues now are starting to fade away,” said White.