Mayor wants neighborhood to drive solution for Hazelnut Grove homeless camp

Hazelnut Grove encampment in North Portland. (Photo: Catherine Van/KATU News)

Two Portland neighborhoods are facing different homeless problems. Mayor Ted Wheeler is leaving it up to neighbors to help find a solution.

You look at Lents in Southeast Portland, and it's something most of us are used to seeing.

“Clothes, blankets, shoes -- it's getting really bad,” said Hugo Curita, who lives in Lents. “I don't feel safe. A lot of homeless around here.”

Many folks living in this neighborhood are worried the campers around Lent Elementary School are dangerous to the kids.

“We've had lockdowns, where the homeless walk around the school and we have to hide in corners, so they won't find us,” said Ariana Curita-Hernandez, a third grader at Lent.

However, you look at Hazelnut Grove, and you see a more organized community of campers, who seem to respect the property around them.

“They've provided a reciprocal relationship to be able to work together, to have a safe place to call their own, escape isolation and at the same time pick up and clean it,” said Marty Lambers, who lives in Overlook.

Hazelnut Grove was designed to be temporary, now almost six months past its stay, many neighbors in Overlook aren't pleased.

“I truly feel unsafe. I feel like I am disrespected everywhere I walk, everywhere I go in my neighborhood,” said one Overlook neighbor.

Divided on the issue, the Overlook neighborhood wants the city to take action. In a town hall meeting with Wheeler Tuesday night, Wheeler says he wants to mediate the tension bubbling over from the last agreement.

“This neighborhood was treated very shallowly. They were not getting answers; the mayor was not there to speak with them,” said Wheeler.

He says the city will find a solution, but wants to give the neighborhood a chance to work it out itself first.

“At the end of the day, I want this neighborhood to drive the conversation of what they want to see here,” Wheeler said.

The mayor wants to take an active approach to homelessness. He says his long-standing goal is to find alternatives for people living on the streets.

Wheeler will be addressing the homeless issue in his first State of the City address Friday at noon.

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