From, May 13, 2008

Portland Police will start patrolling the sidewalk in front of City Hall in response to the now more than two week protest by the homeless population there.

Meanwhile, Portland Mayor Tom Potter said Tuesday he is prepared to sweep the homeless camp if need be; he didn’t provide specifics about when that might be.

Earlier, he wrote a letter to protestors that said he was willing to meet with five representatives from their group and try and talk things out, but he will not tolerate illegal behavior on public property.

“I understand that there are a number of issues you wish to address. I also want to make you aware of my concerns as we begin our conversation,” he said, specifically pointing to drug activity, including the alleged sale of heroin during the protest and public health concerns involving the City Hall bathrooms.

“I strongly support your right to protest,” Potter added. “However, the city has the right to make reasonable time, place, and manner rules for the conduct of protests in public spaces, and can also act to protect the public from unnecessary obstructions as well as health, sanitation, and safety problems. Protests must comply with the City’s camping and sidewalk obstruction ordinances.”

Wesley Flowers, 31, is a homeless veteran, who has been protesting in front of City Hall since May 2nd, one week after the protest began.

“It’s really simple; there’s completely inadequate shelter space,” he said.

Flowers shared the opinion of the other homeless people out there.

But now, even those who are not homeless are joining in on the efforts.

“I’ve been camping down here for about five to six days now,” said Chris Knudtsen, who actually does not usually live on the streets. He has a college education and has had a job in Portland for two years.

He said he’s sleeping on the streets to support the homeless population.

“I see the problems that they’re going through every day and decided that it’s time to get more folks to stand up and support for them,” he said.

It seems he’s not alone.

Kudtson was joined by about two dozen others Monday night that do have homes, but who came to raise awareness.

“There’s definitely been a steady increase in folks who aren’t on the streets coming out in support. Monday night was definitely our biggest showing of support from folks in other aspects of the community,” said Knudtsen.

He says there needs to be more adequate housing and basic job training. Also, he says, a general understanding that the homeless are simply going through hard times.

“There’s a certain stigma attached to them because of the conditions they’re living in. They’re seen as less important and less human and in the eyes of the public and society as a whole. Sometimes it’s necessary to bring folks that can pass as regular citizens to come and be their advocates,” he added.

The mayor’s office warned that Portland police will be doing strict sidewalk obstruction and camping enforcement sometime Tuesday, though they didn’t have a specific time frame.

They said Portland police will start giving written and verbal warnings and then make any arrests if necessary. This will happen over the next several days.