We as a neighborhood association have been wrestling with the houseless crisis in our neighborhood more urgently since the camp at Sunnyside Environmental School has gone up over the past few weeks. We realize and fully understand that the location of this camp is not ideal for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that this is an elementary school with one of the few playgrounds in our neighborhood. While we, the City and other agencies look for another place for these campers to live, we are working hard to make sure that these folks have food, access to bathrooms, trash pickup, and other services.
In December 2020, the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association endorsed the “Community First” Strategy to help guide us in our response to homelessness. This strategy guides us in our current response to the camp at Sunnyside Environmental School:
- We believe that unsupported camps are neither compassionate nor best practice. We are actively looking for potential alternative spaces/land for these houseless campers where they could set up a more permanent camp like Dignity Village or Agape Village.
- We believe that as a host community, we have a vital role to play, while it is also reasonable for us to have expectations as well. We realize that acceptable camp spaces do not include parks and school grounds.
- As we look for alternative camping locations, we believe compassion comes first. Our Community Safety & Livability Committee has been engaging in rigorous on-the-ground efforts aimed at mitigating the impact of unsupported camping conditions for both unhoused and housed neighbors alike. We’re working very closely with government agencies (the City’s Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program, Metro, and Portland Police Bureau specifically) to gain access to additional resources and ensure leaders at these levels are informed.
Here’s a more detailed update of what’s happened since our Dec. 28 Community Safety & Livability Committee meeting.
First, several of our committee members made contact with Katie Lindsay from the Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program (HUCIRP). Lindsay walked around the encampment on Tuesday Dec. 29 and was told about the neighborhood’s concerns about drug use, potential crime, trash, and loud noises after hours. We also told her of the camp’s need for a port-a-potty and asked that it be placed away from the playground (and away from neighbors’ houses) on the North side of Yamhill. Later on Tuesday, Lindsay let us know that the area along 34th street would be “posted”—i.e. that signs would go up alerting folks that it would be cleared and cleaned on Monday, January 4.
Those signs went up on Wednesday Dec. 30. Members of Rapid Response (the clean-up service the City employs) and volunteers from our committee are working to help those people camped along 34th relocate elsewhere in the city. (Emergency shelters are also a possibility but as those are for just one night only, don’t allow any personal belongings, and don’t have any private rooms, they are usually a non-starter for most campers.)
A port-a-potty was set up on the corner of 34th and Yamhill on Wednesday as well.
While neighborhood volunteers started doing cleanups and trash pickups as early as last week, Metro began doing daily trash collection at the park as of Wednesday Dec. 30. Volunteers have been handing out Metro trash bags to campers, who know to leave the full bags at the corner of 35th and Yamhill for pick-up.
The needle box on 35th (near Yamhill) is back in service. We are working on getting the needle box on 34th (across from Taylor) back in service as well. Volunteers are monitoring and emptying those boxes at the main needle drop over at the Belmont Library.
If you have any interest in volunteering to help with trash pick-up, outreach, or an upcoming clothing drive please contact Jes Maran at csl at sunnysideportland.org .