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Portland's Inhumanity Towards Houseless People Continues

Although the root causes of houselessness are not being addressed and there is an inadequate supply of needed housing in this area, the City continues its relentless sweeps of those who have no other place to go. While most sweeps are conducted by private contractors, Portland Police frequently act as security on standby. The City maintains that outreach is being done to advise houseless people regarding shelter and other resources but various sources dispute this. As noted in PPR #86, the City dismissed these claims by saying these were "self reporting experiences." Certainly an elitist response.

[image of Oregonian article]A person who has been witness to the City's sweeps of the Hazelnut Grove area stated that the outreach to the houseless community seems minimal as the sweeps have ramped up considerably. While some of the campers were asked if they wanted to go to a shelter or needed some services, most were not spoken to. The campers were frightened of the sweeps, often had nowhere to go and had no means to move their possessions. They had little or no ability to recover their belongings. Even if one person was the cause of a problem, the whole camp was swept.

According to the July 10 Oregonian, there were massive sweeps of camps in Old Town, but the proposed new approach to address the homelessness crisis doesn't appear to have been considered at all. Again, tents, bedding, IDs, medication and personal property were taken from those swept who were traumatized once again. The Portland Mercury reported on another camp that was swept where a camper said one of the contractors unzipped her tent, shook the contents on the ground and threw the tent into a dumpster (July 15). The clothing and personal property belonging to this woman were lost. Rapid Response BioClean, which picks up items during the sweeps, reportedly has a pattern of throwing most structures and property into the trash.

At a July 21 virtual meeting to present the Police Bureau's annual report, Central Precinct Commander Craig Dobson stated that when officers are providing security for sweeps (which he referred to as "cleanings"), they look at criminal activity in the area and "very surgically remove individuals who are causing more criminal activity than anything else in that area." Do they use a scalpel, a scythe or a "smart bomb" (which are touted to be used in "surgical strikes")?

As of the end of June, only one of the six Safe Rest Villages promised by the City has come into fruition. Homeless youth are not escaping the inhumanity and are frequently being swept (Portland Tribune, June 29). Mayor Wheeler has said he plans to broaden sweeps to all neighborhoods in the City (Willamette Week, June 18). Pursuant to a class action lawsuit filed by four houseless individuals, the City has supposedly established new policies for sweeps, including expanding prior notice and providing information on seized personal possessions (Oregonian, May 11).

If the sweeps, loss of tents and personal property are not enough to traumatize houseless people, statistics indicate they are frequently arrested, accounting for over half of the arrests in Portland in a four year period. These arrests were usually not for serious crimes, but rather for missing court hearings. It is often difficult for a houseless person to make an appearance in court. Many arrests stem from calls by housed people reporting a "suspicious" person or to ask for a welfare check (Street Roots, May 29).

Portland has an ordinance prohibiting persons sitting or lying on sidewalks, and violations can often result in arrests of houseless people. For years, Portland Copwatch has asked the City for statistics regarding arrests under this ordinance. Thus far the City has not provided this information.

Sadly, Portland is not the only Oregon city to make life miserable for those who are houseless. In order to not offend the senses of the participants and attendees at the World Athletic Championships, Eugene forced the removal of its unhoused population prior to the opening of this event (Oregonian, July 25).

  [People's Police Report]

September, 2022
Also in PPR #87

Portland's New Gang Team Shoots at Three
  • Ongoing Trend of More Deadly Police Shootings in OR
DOJ Lambastes City for Failures to Comply
Dubious Ideas from Gang Team Advisory Group
Staff Leaving More Independent Police Review
  • IPR Annual Report Continues to Lack Adequate Info
Oversight Commission Begins Research Phase
Inhumanity Towards Portland's Houseless People
Sheriff: No Discipline for Offensive Coin
More Protest Violence Suits Cost City Big Bucks
Biased Force Use Ignored at Training Council
Quick Flashes PPR #87:
 • Suit for City Records Has Unintended Consequences
 • Ex-Cop Who Rammed Suspect Pleads Guilty
 • Forest Grove Cop Convicted for Vandalizing BLM Signs
 • PPB Traffic Stop Data: More People of Color Targeted
 • Bunch of Cops on "Brady List"
 • Copwatch Helps Thwart Scams by Transfer Officers
 • Keaton Otis Remembered, 12 Years Later

"Constitutional" Sheriffs: Troubling Trend
Police Ask Input: Crowd, Force, ID Policies
Rapping Back #87

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

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