Oregon legislature exploring changes to homeless camp sweeps in Portland

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The legislature is considering allowing the City of Portland to remove homeless camps on state-owned property.

Rep. Jeff Reardon (D) said the area along Interstate 205 in Southeast Portland is a prime example of a spot that is frequented by homeless campers that includes Oregon Department of Transportation land, and land owned by the City of Portland.

"I'm trying to streamline that process. I think the city is best equipped to deal with it and I think they're best for cleaning up campsites," Rep. Reardon, who drafted the bill, told KATU News. "It doesn't make sense to have two government-owned crews doing essentially the same work."

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's office supports the bill, saying it will allow for a coordinated effort between the city and state. Michael Cox, Wheeler's director of communications, says the city is more experienced at clearing camps and does so in a more "compassionate way."

"There's never going to be compassionate sweeps," says Karissa Moden with Sisters of the Road. They're one of the leading organizations in Portland in assisting homeless people and connecting them to necessary services.

Moden fears that by streamlining the clean up of homeless camps it'll lead to more sweeps, forcing more homeless people to have to regularly move.

"The city could be putting this energy in a different direction, instead of doing more sweeps," Moden said. "We want a city that isn't trying to be better at sweeps, we want a city that's better than sweeps."

Reardon disputes this assertion and says that by having the city handle the clean up of homeless camps it'll yield better results, both for neighbors living near camps and the homeless people living in them.

"That is definitely something we want to avoid, this is not to increase sweeps," Rep. Reardon said. "We are requiring that there are resources officers there to direct people to the right places."

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