PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The city of Portland said Wednesday it will increase the number of urban homeless camps they remove because of public health and safety risks beginning Monday.
The “more assertive approach” from the city’s Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program comes after officials said the number and size of the encampments have increased since the coronavirus pandemic began, KOIN-TV reported.
From March to July 2020, campsite removals ceased altogether following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Multnomah County Health Department. Officials said removals since have resumed but in a drastically reduced capacity following a revised protocol for campsites that posed the greatest health and safety risks.
Before the pandemic, about 50 campsites were removed every week. But for the past year, the city removed an average of five campsites each week, leaving a build-up of trash, needles and other biohazardous waste, officials said.
While the number of locations with over 10 structures was four or five before the pandemic, now it is nearly 30, officials said.
Eviction notices at campsites could be posted starting Monday for reasons including untreated sewage, biohazardous materials, blocked ADA access, violence, fire risk, and impeding school operations, among others.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and every other Portland Commissioner released a joint statement Wednesday, saying the city is currently looking at city-owned properties for viable shelter or camping sites as part of the Shelter to Housing Continuum project.