From OPB.com May 15, 2008

Portland police closed the sidewalk in front of city hall early Thursday morning and cleared out a group of homeless protestors.

Police spokesman Brian Schmautz says the sidewalk was closed to clean up debris from the protest — which began nearly three weeks ago.

Brian Schmautz: “We had some issues with some fecal material, syringes, over the course of the last couple weeks and just thought it was appropriate for the safety and sanitation — a lot of food out there — and just want to make sure it’s a safe environment.”

Police say most of the homeless protestors moved across the street when officers arrived.

However, one man was arrested for yelling at the police and refusing to move from the middle of the street. The sidewalk will re-open later Thursday after cleaning crews finish their work.

From OPB.com, May 12, 2008

Over the weekend, Portland police arrested a handful of people taking part in a round-the-clock homeless protest near city hall. Police threatened more with arrest, if the protesters don’t follow the city’s anti-camping and sidewalk ordinances.

At the same time, the homeless advocacy group Sisters of the Road, has withdrawn from a city committee geared toward balancing public safety and freedom of movement for homeless people.

Sisters’ advocates say that services have been too slow in coming – and that police have used city ordinances to crack down on the homeless.

Mayor Tom Potter says he won’t sanction makeshift campgrounds in Portland.

Tom Potter: “They have a lot of problems in the homeless camps, around sanitation issues, around safety issues. The police tend to look the other way when they can, but when it becomes a problem, we have to deal with it, and we have to have a tool to do that with.”

Potter says the city has responded to short-term needs by funding an additional hundred or so shelter beds, but he says the long-term answer is to build more affordable housing.

Portland’s “Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness” has been praised as a national model for putting thousands of homeless people into permanent housing. But city officials say well over a thousand people still don’t have adequate shelter on any given night in Portland.

From OPB.com, May 6, 2008

A protest calling for better facilities for Portland’s homeless people is closing in on its second week. As April Baer reports, no immediate end is in sight.

Dozens of homeless protesters have been camped out on the sidewalk in front of City Hall.

They say the city needs better options for short-term shelter. One of the protesters is Joseph Van Der Heiden.

Joseph Van Der Heiden: “There’s not enough bed space for the number of homeless. I was one of the four who went in to meet with the mayor yesterday. And I told the mayor the simple, easy logical solution is to set up a safe zone where we can put up our tents, put up our structures, stay dry, shelter ourselves, shelter our property.”

He says he thinks Mayor Tom Potter didn’t take the message seriously.

Last week Potter’s office issued a statement asking people to be patient with the protesters. He said new temporary shelters are in the works.

Portland has laws prohibiting public camping, and extended stays on sidewalks.

So far the Police Bureau has not been ordered to break up the protest.