Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is touting the recent clearing of a homeless encampment as a "humane response" that's part of a model he would like to see replicated throughout the city.
City contractors on Tuesday removed around 100 people who had been living for months in tents and other dwellings inside Laurelhurst Park in southeast Portland, drawing the ire of nearby residents, according to The Oregonian.
“Right now, we have to address the reality that we have hundreds, if not thousands, of tents choking virtually every public space in this city and that does not comport with the public’s expectations of what a humane response should be,” Wheeler said in an interview with the newspaper.
The statement comes as the city is dealing with a surge in coronavirus cases and winter is approaching. The city temporarily halted homeless encampment removals at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic but resumed the practice for large ones in July.
BLACK ACTIVISTS IN PORTLAND DISTANCING THEMSELVES FROM VIOLENT ANARCHIST PROTESTERS
The park was targeted after reports of drug use and the disregard for adequate hygiene and social distancing rules, Heather Hafer, a spokeswoman for Portland’s Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program, told the paper.
The city cleared about three encampments a week, she said, a sharp decline from the 40 to 60 encampments that were targeted before the pandemic.
Wheeler said the city provides advanced notice of the sweeps and offers safe alternatives for the homeless.
“While we want to be compassionate to those on the streets, we have to respect the fact that people don’t want their doorways blocked, they don’t want their businesses blocked, they don’t want sidewalks impeded,” he said.
Homeless advocates disagree with the mayor's assertion.
“This is a violation of human dignity,” said Aimee Niles, a hospital chaplain and a member of Portland Interfaith Clergy Resistance who provided assistance to campers who remained at the park.
“To have this happen on the week of Thanksgiving, to come through here to take away someone’s home — that’s soul damage."
City workers referred 62 people from the park to a community shelter. Only 26 showed up through Tuesday, the paper reported. Others are moving to other encampments, including one several blocks away from the park, near an elementary school.
The lightning all but snatches away their sight; every time the light (Helps) them, they walk therein, and when the darkness grows on them, they stand still. And if Allah willed, He could take away their faculty of hearing and seeing; for Allah hath power over all things. (The Cow 20 )