Kicked out: Some businesses worry where homeless will go next

PORTLAND, Ore. - Campers and protesters packed up their stuff and left Terry Schrunk Plaza Monday after federal authorities told them they were closing the park for routine maintenance.

The order came after Mayor Charlie Hales forced campers in front of City Hall to move but many of them just went across the street to Terry Schrunk Plaza, which is federal property.

While the campers left the park before the 10 p.m. deadline, many were still hanging around nearby at about 11 p.m. Some of them were sleeping in front of City Hall and many people were congregating at Chapman and Lownsdale parks. There were plenty of police in the area as well.

Some business owners said they're worried about what will happen next where the protesters and campers will go next.

It's no secret many downtown business owners don't want homeless people sleeping and living outside their doors. But for Lynda Searcy with Portland Outdoor Store, it's gotten worse.

Last month a 70-year-old employee power-washing the sidewalk was struck on the head with a skateboard. This month, Searcy said the aggressive behavior hasn't slowed.

"A percentage of them have no respect, have no care whether they leave messes, whether they're doing things legally or not," she said. "They have a habit of just roaming around and doing what they want."

When asked, protesters at Terry Schrunk Plaza seemed to know the rules, at least on federal land.

At the plaza, it seems you can pitch a tent as long as it's part of a protest, not a camp, and as long as the park isn't closed.

Terry Schrunk Plaza will be closed for a week. Federal authorities said they'll put up a fence by 5 a.m. Tuesday to do annual maintenance like grass re-seeding and tree trimming. They then plan to re-open the plaza next Wednesday. But anyone or anything in and around the plaza during that time may be removed.

Many business owners, who have already seen a slew of problems, aren't convinced moving protesters from City Hall or Terry Schrunk is the best solution.

"If they get moved, I don't know where they're going to go," said Searcy. "If they come down here, it's going to cause a big problem."

A couple protesters told KATU News on Monday night that they plan to stay in the area of Chapman and Lownsdale squares, but because that is the city's property they said they won't set up tents. Portland police said if they do bring the tents, officers will enforce the city's anti-camping ordinance.