A new policy restricting camping on public property has led to dozens of criminal trespass warnings and ordinance violations.
In an announcement last month, Portland officials said most campsites would get advanced notice before being removed. Now a spokesperson said there’s no notice needed in one big part of the city: Deering Oaks.
There used to be a large encampment on the north end of Deering Oaks in Portland. Then about a month ago, people living there were given a 24-hour notice to leave.
“There’s nowhere to go,” said Brandyn, who has been homeless for about two and a half years. “They told us we have to leave. The lady was somewhat nice but we still have nowhere to go.”
Brandyn said they were told to leave the park Wednesday morning.
“It’s really difficult, especially when it’s starting to rain out, and they still force us to pack our stuff up,” Brandyn said.
A city spokesperson said Deering Oaks is now posted as an “emphasis area.” That means encampments and unauthorized items can be removed without a customary 24-hour notice. Notices have been posted at park entrances.
“I think the extra enforcement is a waste of time and waste of money. All we’re trying to do is live,” said Rose, who has been experiencing homelessness on and off for the last five years.
Campers are encouraged to go to an area shelter, most of which have capacity, according to a city spokesperson. But those living in the park said that’s not always an option for some people.
“They’re stuck with no place to go, not even a park,” Rose said.
From July 15 to 18, Portland police issued four ordinance violations for habitation of recreational shelters, which includes things like tents. There were 15 violations for loitering in city parks and at least 22 criminal trespass warnings. Everyone who was camping left voluntarily, and there were no arrests.
Victoria Thayer, who owns Queenie’s Castle in Deering Oaks, said since enforcement began, she’s seeing fewer problems, but there are still issues.
“I actually have surveillance cameras 24 hours so I see quite a bit of things,” Thayer said.
She said people are still defecating around the building, using drugs on the patio and sleeping in the doorway. Thayer said she calls the police when needed.
“I have compassion because I feel bad that they have no place to sleep, but it’s just really concerning, especially trying to run a business,” Thayer said.
There will be another option for people to go to instead in the months ahead.
A city spokesperson said the construction of a new shelter is ahead of schedule.
It was expected to be completed in late spring or early summer next year, but may be able to open sooner than anticipated.