Portland residents cry out for help as homelessness spreads across parts of the city — including their front yards.
“I want to cry,” Christina Hartnett, a resident, told KGW8.” I just want my house back. My lawn is now becoming a public bathroom.”
Hartnett said she has lived in her neighborhood for five years, and she is now fearful of leaving her house just to get to work.
“When you have grown men meth raging in your driveway, the last thing I feel safe doing is going out and saying, ‘Hey, can you please move so I can go to work?’” she said.
Central City Concern Clean Start Crews told KGW8 that residents had reported approximately 1,900 homeless encampments just in the Southeast Portland neighborhood, with 272 sites posing greater health and safety risks.
“I have to report from like four different bureaus,” she said. “And I have to report that report to report, and then I have to report that report to a second report — it’s the only way to get any kind of traction.”
“I feel like nobody hears us,” she added. “Nobody cares about us.”
Other residents also expressed their concerns for their safety.
Tess, who has lived in the neighborhood for 35 years, told KGW8 she now has installed security cameras around her home and boarded up her front door windows after some homeless individuals smashed them.
“Scared because I don’t know what they’re going to do next,” she said.
Cliff Perce, an employee at Bucket Brigade Sports Bar & Restaurant, said when customers arrive, they are met with people overdosing on the sidewalks in front of the restaurant.
However, those experiencing homeless say they want to coexist with the neighborhood but often get mistreated by residents living in a house.
“It’s just a matter of some homeless people are resentful towards the neighborhood because of the way they treat them,” Jennifer Czupryk, a homeless woman who lives in a broken down van that is parked on a boulevard in Southeast Portland, told KGW8.
Other homeless residents have said they understand the neighborhood’s frustration as the violence has increased among some homeless communities.
“It’s just gotten more bold — more rash,” Brendan Harvey, a homeless resident, told KGW8. “People aren’t as afraid to do things that are, you know, have to do with criminality.”
Frustrations from the residents are getting louder just as the city’s housing director announced she’s officially resigning on Aug. 1 after five years of leading the city’s response to the affordable housing crisis.
“I can truly say that the work we do at Portland Housing Bureau, alongside our community partners and jurisdictional partners, changes lives for the better,” Shannon Callahan, director of Portland Housing Bureau, said. “It has been a privilege to work with the dedicated, passionate, and exceptional team of public servants at the bureau.”
Multnomah County, including the City of Portland, tallied its bi-annual Point in Time Count, showing that homelessness increased by 30% since its last count three years ago. In 2019, the count totaled just over 4,000 individuals experiencing homelessness. That number currently stands at 5,228 homeless individuals — most of which occupy Portland.
However, the city’s Joint Office of Homeless Services said the data should be considered more of an undercount as it doesn’t definitively find, survey, and count every homeless individual.
“Across the country, it is common knowledge that the methodology behind the Point in Time Count is fundamentally flawed,” Dan Ryan, city commissioner and liaison for the Joint Office of Homeless Services, told Willamette Week. Multnomah County has added in-depth interviews and layers of complexity to the process.
“This approach gets us even farther from the requirements of this federal compliance exercise, and it simply doesn’t work,” he added.
Adding on to the city’s uptick in homelessness, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reports Callahan’s departure comes two months after the “single biggest theft in Portland government history” when the housing bureau experienced a “cybersecurity breach.”
$1.4 million originally meant for a new 100-unit affordable housing project was redirected to a fraudulent account, an anonymous official told OPB.
KGW8 reports the city only has enough resources to remove 50 encampments a week and generally assesses each site within 48 hours after some reports the encampment.
Officials said they receive hundreds of reports of high-risk sites every day.
“It is going to take one of us getting severely hurt or killed before they will do anything to come help us,” Hartnett said