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Homeless camp forces homeowner to move, neighbors want city to act

Homeless camp outside Ben Boyd's home in the Lents neighborhood - Photo by KATU's Chris Liedle

A Southeast Portland, Oregon neighborhood is calling on city officials to find viable, long-term solutions to homelessness.

Neighbors say the homeless camp located near SE 94th & Glenwood, along the I-205 multi-use path, is the source for an increase in crime in the area.

About 15 tents and tarps are tied to Ben Boyd's fence. He says he's reported the camp a number of times to police and the city. He says every time the camp is cleaned-up, campers move just a few hundred yards away and return a few weeks later.

"I can't even open up my office window, they are literally 5 feet away, right there," Boyd told KATU. "We need a more permanent solution."

Boyd recently sold his home. He says the homeless camp is a main reason for leaving.

"That's my son's nursery right there. We just keep the windows closed the curtains closed," Boyd said. "They can see when no one is here, so it poses a risk for us, poses a risk for our property and the people that we love in our family."

Boyd's sentiment is felt throughout the neighborhood.

Kathryn Robles, a mom of four young children, says she's afraid to let her children play outside and says she avoids using the bike path that connects the neighborhood to nearby public transportation.

"When we're out either walking the dog or getting some fresh air with the kids, there's nowhere really to go," Robles said. "We call police non-emergency [line], and they either said they will send someone out or that there is nothing they can do."

Robles says that's in addition to reporting the camp online and to local advocate groups.

"We need a solution that's not just moving people around and cleaning up after them," Robles said.

A spokesperson for Mayor Ted Wheeler told KATU Wheeler is proposing to allocate $1 million in his new budget to expand Portland's One Point of Contact homeless outreach program.

The Mayor's Office says the city receives approximately 400 complaints regarding 85-90 camps per week. With its current funding, One Point of Contact is only able to clean-up about 6-10 camps a week.

Oregon Department of Transportation spokesperson Don Hamilton says the state agency can only post temporary "no trespassing" signs. He says after signs are posted, campers have 10 to 19 days to leave. Hamilton says police are responsible for enforcing trespassing rules.

Regional leaders recognize the homeless population moved from the Springwater Corridor trail last year moved to paths and underpasses along I-205.

"We have problems there," Hamilton told KATU Friday. "We're just a property owner... it's very difficult."

Multnomah County's Joint Office of Homeless Services communications coordinator Denis Theriault says they are "looking at a plan heading into summer," but did not release specifics. Theriault says the Office must address poverty issues, substance abuse and provide mental health services.

Theriault used social security as an example.

The maximum Supplemental Security Income monthly disability check is $733 -- well below the 1 bed/1 bathroom rent average of $1,094 Theriault explained.

According to federal numbers, Theriault says more than 18,000 people in Multnomah County rely on that disability benefit.

Theriault also told KATU the homeless community is battling an opioid epidemic.

Neighbors hope the City finds a solution soon, otherwise, they may follow in Boyd's footsteps and leave Portland behind.

"There's not a lot we can do," Boyd said. "I want the best for them, but I need to look out for me and my own."

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