Before sunrise and less than 24 hours before Village of Hope was forced to vacate, activists gathered at the houseless community Thursday, Feb. 1, to protest the camp’s impending eviction. Organizers announced City of Portland’s planned sweep on social media the night before.
Approximately 10 personal tents and belongings had been donated to the Village, including sturdier tent structures made for cooking and socializing. All such necessities were at risk of eviction by city officials.
“The city will come in and remove our stuff,” said Lisa Lake, a primary Village organizer leading the protest. “If we’re not able to take it, [the city] will supposedly store it for us somewhere.”
One day after the first eviction notice, a handful of protesters, including prominent activist Jamie Partridge, picketed at Wednesday’s Portland City Council meeting. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz released a statement that read, “Parks are for everyone—not open for settlement by particular individuals or groups.” Fritz continued, “Encampments are not sustainable in a park or natural area, neither of which are designed to have people living there.”
Lake said because people frequently camp in the area, sweeps occur often. However, Lake claimed no one comes to clean the site up after it is cleared out.
“[The natural area has] been trashed more than once, and we don’t like how the city is managing it,” Lake added. “We plan to have naturalists and arborists come in and train the residents. Since moving in here, we have actually had the management of the local businesses come out and see how we’ve improved it.”
Fritz and Mayor Ted Wheeler both argued the campsite placement on the Big Four Corners natural area is a threat to the local ecosystem.
An activist who called himself Bob said no matter what the city’s arguments for sweeping the camp are, “They are not valid in any way.”
“This camp is unique,” Bob said. “I feel that it is in a more secluded area then most
[houseless communities]. As long as they are not hurting anyone, leave them be.”
Lake said campers facing eviction have mostly chosen new locations to set up their tents. “The city says it has offered up beds at shelters,” Lake said, “but most of those are full.”
Early Friday, Feb. 2, Portland Police and park rangers showed up to sweep one hour before the Village anticipated. Police wrapped yellow tape around the camp’s perimeter and, according to activists on the Village’s public Facebook group, threatened to arrest occupants if they crossed the tape border.
A video from Partridge’s Twitter showed organizer Steve Kimes helping haul property from the camp in a wagon while PPB officers behind him chanted, “this is criminal activity.”
Currently, Portland is short hundreds of shelter beds, and houselessness has steadily risen in the last few years. Though people living on the streets have been more likely to visit shelters since 2015, Portland’s housing crisis designation was recently extended to April 2019. Until then, police are deprioritizing complaints about people camping on private property.
By the afternoon of Feb. 2, online supporters were saying they would be back to defend Village of Hope. “I’m coming back,” said village occupant Kerry on another video from Partridge. “[The city] cannot keep me out.”
“We have a home,” Kerry added. “It might be a tent, it might not have walls or a roof, but by God it’s what we’ve got.”
Read Part One of Vanguard’s Village of Hope series: “Keeping hope alive: The Celebration” to learn about its background and the people who helped create it.