Portland’s first sanctioned homeless ‘park’ is less than 20 percent full a month after opening as shocking new images show drug abuse and illegal campsites continue to plague its streets.
Oregon’s largest city is in the midst of a devastating humanitarian crisis, with its homeless population up almost 50 percent since 2019 to more than 5,000.
The uber-woke local government is pinning its hopes of reversing the trend on a raft of costly new shelters.
But when DailyMail.com visited earlier this month, two of its flagship sites sat largely empty, with the majority of its drug-addled homeless population preferring to remain in unsanctioned campsites across the city.
Distressing images showed rows of disheveled tents taking over the streets, while the left-behind inhabitants openly abused hard drugs on sidewalks.
A seemingly never-ending line of trailers and haggard RVs has become one of Portland’s largest unsanctioned campsites
Chris, 28, smokes crack cocaine in broad daylight on the streets of downtown Portland
Portland opened its first city-sanctioned campsite at Clinton Triangle last month. It can accommodated around 200 people, but so far just 80 have moved in
Around 2,000 of the city’s homeless population are sheltered, leaving approximately 3,000 sleeping rough, according to official data.
The crisis has been fueled by the pandemic and a 2018 court ruling that meant cities across much of the West, including Portland, could not prevent people from sleeping outside if alternative shelter wasn’t available.
Public scenes of flagrant drug abuse were then sent into overdrive after Oregon voters approved a 2020 ballot measure that effectively decriminalized possession of hard drugs like meth and opioids.
In a bid to end the crisis, Portland has approved $27million in funding for three temporary alternative sites, with plans for a further three to be funded by Multnomah County, while passing a ban on daytime camping, which came into effect on July 7.
Yet more than a month on, there are few signs of progress.
The Sunderland RV Safe Park near Portland’s International Airport was opened in July as the city’s first sanctioned shelter for people living in their RVs.
The site has capacity for up to 55 vehicles, but as of yet only nine have moved in.
Ironically, a seemingly never-ending line of trailers and broken-down RVs were parked up on an intersecting road in what has become one of the city’s biggest unsanctioned campsites.
As DailyMail.com arrived at the campsite, fire crews were putting out an early morning RV fire that saw the vehicle burnt to ash.
The illegal row of trailers and RVs runs along NE 33rd Drive in Portland, where it intersects with NE Sunderland Avenue, the site of the city’s first sanctioned RV camp
A city worker said some had wanted to move to the official camp but had been barred because they did not hold licenses or proof of ownership
A sign reads ‘stay away or die’ in the window of one RV. Although perhaps tongue-in-cheek, it nevertheless touches on the dangers of such illegal encampments
A fire crew was putting out a blaze when DailyMail.com visited the camp earlier this month
One official said crews attend to uncontrolled fires at the camp once every two or three weeks
The fire reduced the camper van to a sorry heap of charcoal and ash
An official said firefighters were called to the site to put out uncontrolled fires every two to three weeks.
A city worker said some had wanted to enter the Safe Park but had been barred because they did not have valid licenses or proof of vehicle ownership.
In downtown Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler has opened the city’s first sanctioned campsite, Clinton Triangle, boasting 140 sleeping pods to accommodate around 200 people.
The shelter contains bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities, a dog run and a kitchen.
It began accepting residents last month, but just 80 have moved in so far.
David Bentley, who has been scrambling to find alternative accommodation after he was told he would have to move on from his illegal campsite in the city’s Central Eastside, told KGW8 earlier this month that Portland’s homeless population were shunning the city-sanctioned shelters because the ‘set up is like some sort of minimum-security prison’.
No drugs can be consumed on site – a deterrent for addicts who can abuse substances openly on the streets.
Weapons are also banned, which Bentley said was also causing people to stay away.
‘All of us make sure that we have a weapon on us at all times, that goes against the first rule or law of being out here – make sure you can defend yourself,’ he said.
Dignity Village, which first opened in 2000 in downtown Portland but has since moved to its current location near the airport, appears to be having more success.
Frank, 55, a resident at Dignity Village, said he felt safer at the shelter than on the streets
The shelter, which opened in 2000, is run by its residents but sanctioned by the city
Portland provides year-round shelter and safety for up to 60 homeless people every night
A cart of donated clothes stands next to a pair of sheds in Dignity Village, Portland
The city’s push for official homeless shelters appeared to have done little to end scenes such as this one, where addicts openly abuse drugs on NW Broadway in downtown Portland
A group of drug users on NW Davis St in downtown Portland. The city has seen a spike in deaths from fentanyl overdoses since the use of hard drugs was decriminalized in 2020
Last year, such overdoses killed 209 people in Multnomah County, which includes Portland. Pictured: Drug users along 5th Avenue in downtown Portland
A homeless encampment under the Morrison Bridge in Portland, Oregon. Sites such as these were outlawed by the city on July 7, but most remain in place
A man peers out of his makeshift shelter at a homeless encampment along Naito Parkway in downtown Portland
A ‘dumpster diver’ rummages for scraps on SE Division PL in the downtown area
The site is run by its residents, but is city-sanctioned.
Portland provides year-round shelter and safety for up to 60 homeless people every night.
Frank, a 55-year-old resident, said one of the main advantages of staying at the village was that it felt ‘safe’.
But frightened neighbors of one of Portland’s new city-sponsored homeless villages have previously said it has become a hotbed for crime and drug dealing.
Residents living near the Safe Rest Village, which opened earlier this year and houses up to 70 people, said the camp is running rampant with drug dealers and antisocial behavior.
Either way, the initiatives seem to have had little success in stopping scenes such as those in downtown Portland, where Chris, a 28-year-old drug user, is openly smoking crack cocaine on busy Third Avenue on the day of DailyMail.com’s visit.
On Fifth Avenue, groups of drug users can be seen openly taking fentanyl, smoking crack cocaine and injecting themselves with an array of substances.
Meanwhile, a group of homeless people at a campsite at Waterfront Park lie passed out on a sidewalk, their belongings spilled across the street.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler introduced a ban on ‘daytime camping’ on July 7
But the city has been slow to remove illegal campsites such as this one along 13th Ave
Such sites are littered across the city and another can be found along SW Washington St
Some among the homeless population are reluctant to move into city-sanctioned campsites because of a ban on drug use, whereas they can continue to take substances on the streets
The 2020 ballot reform that decriminalized the use of hard drugs, known as Measure 110, was meant to focus efforts on treating addiction instead of arresting users.
Police were given powers to hand out a $100 fine to anyone caught using these drugs and a card listing a hotline for addiction treatment.
But critics say the new law has created a free-for-all on hard drug abuse.
The same year the measure was approved, 69 people in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, fatally overdoses from synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, according to the county health department.
Last year, such overdoses killed 209 people in the county, while Portland, which has one of America’s worst crime rates, experienced a spate of homicides and other violence among the city’s homeless.