PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — In a tent on a small side street off Southeast Powell Boulevard, Jinai Record finds protection. She lathers pieces of bread in milk and cinnamon to make French toast, one of her duties as the camp cook.
“It’s really not safe to be a single female outside,” she said. “So, it might be smart to find a bunch of people and cook for them; then you might find it a little safer.”
Little did she know, her slice of safety is on the city’s radar for removal since it’s sandwiched between Cleveland High School and the school athletic fields. Classes at the school start next week.
In August 2022, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler prohibited homeless camping on streets that K-12 students use to walk to school — streets like the one Record sleeps on.
City crews have cleared that street numerous times throughout the year, all part of a citywide increase in campsite removals. The mayor’s office told KGW that so far this August, 303 homeless campsites have been removed in Portland. The homeless people at the one near Cleveland High School have until Monday to clear out again.
“Oh, I’m used to it. I’m not surprised, you know, it’s just how it is,” said Steve, who just set up his tent there two days ago.
City outreach crews offered them shelter Wednesday morning, they said — sort of.
“‘Who wants shelter?!’ ‘I do! I do I do!’ ‘Oh well, there’s waitlists.’ So, I said, ‘Hey guys what do I do?’ And they said, ‘Well you get ahold of one of us.’ I said, ‘But you’re right there! Like, I’ll go now,'” Record recalled. She said she hasn’t heard back since.
“I don’t know if they’ll come back, but see, there’s no direct path, there’s no process,” she said.
KGW was told that Mayor Ted Wheeler recently met with Cleveland High School’s principal to talk about the camp, and the city’s Impact Reduction team meets monthly with Portland Public Schools about similar issues.
“Up and down this street, kids are walking to the high school, to the fields, parking their cars in this area, and it’s really gotten to the point where it’s become unsafe,” said Derek Ranta, who has three kids at Cleveland High. He’s reported the camp to the city all summer long.
“Open nudity, urination, defecation, drug use, people yell at them on occasion, say vulgar things. They’re teenagers, but they shouldn’t have to be experiencing those kinds of things on a daily basis,” Ranta said of the things his children see on their way to sports practice.
Steve, who camps there, agrees with that assessment. “School kids shouldn’t have to see this, I don’t think,” he said.
“Certainty, we know this a vulnerable population in our community, the homeless population — but we’re talking about kids and children that are equally vulnerable,” Ranta said.
On Monday, the mayor asked Gov. Tina Kotek for $12 million to create a strategy to keep homeless camps from returning to the same locations. In the meantime, he’s asking anyone who sees camps blocking access to schools to report them through PDX Reporter.
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