An Oregon woman living and working next to a Northeast Portland homeless camp has reportedly installed security cameras and an electric fence in response to alleged drug deals and other criminal activity.
Jennifer Wilkins, the resident manager of Glass Plant Road’s Acme Storage Inc., told local KATU that she has lived there for a decade.
According to Wilkins, what was once a quiet area has “gotten so bad, exponentially bad over the last year.”
PORTLAND PROTESTS, HOMELESSNESS HAVE RESIDENTS AVOIDING DOWNTOWN, POLL REVEALS
“There was a drive-by shooting here a couple of months back. Right there. That’s 50 feet from my door. Fifty feet,” she told the local station.
Wilkins said she hit her “breaking point” when “some guy drove his car into the slough” after a “domestic situation” and she was “attacked by a dog that came from one of those camps” while walking her own pooch.
“And I’m done. I’m just done,” Wilkins said.
KATU said its reporters spent more than a month observing the area, flagging what appeared to be a “chop shop” and Wilkins said 20 catalytic converters were stolen from her customers.
After “dozens” of calls to the city, the Portland Police Department and Portland Fire & Rescue fell on deaf ears, Wilkins decided to take measures into her own hands.
She installed 64 cameras and an electric fence.
“What do you need to do to make this stop?” Wilkins told KATU. “I mean, how many people are going to die? Because it’s at that point. People are dying.”
“I don’t want to feel like I can’t leave my house because I’m too afraid to leave. I don’t want to feel like I have to go out and have a weapon on me at all times because I’m afraid I’m going to get killed because I left my house. That’s not OK. I don’t understand how anyone else in this city can think that’s OK,” Wilkins added.
Attempts made by Fox News to reach Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office were unsuccessful.
KATU said Portland’s Office of Management and Finance confirmed that the city’s Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program (HUCIRP) is aware of the site.
According to HUCIRP, approximately 2,037 individuals sleep unsheltered in the City of Portland every night.
The program is “responsible for coordinating cleanup/abatement of unsanctioned campsites on City and ODOT owned properties/rights-of-way within the City of Portland while managing the City’s One Point of Contact campsite reporting system,” according to its website, but “not designed to solve homelessness.”
“It exists to help reduce the impact of homelessness within the community by creating service navigation opportunities for individuals experiencing homelessness while also facilitating the removal of hazardous items and debris from our public spaces,” the page notes.
In a weekly campsite report, HUCIRP said the organization had conducted eight campsite removals and 16 campsite cleanups, 282 assessments and received 1,121 new campsite reports identifying “195 active campsites” during the week of June 14 to 20.
Of those reports, 198 were about people living in vehicles.
The building at 9700 NE Glass Plant Rd. is listed as one of the Northeast Portland locations that were cleaned.
In November, Wheeler told The Oregonian that an effort to clear homeless encampments and revitalize Portland was a “humane response,” though some advocates disagreed.
“Right now, we have to address the reality that we have hundreds, if not thousands, of tents choking virtually every public space in this city and that does not comport with the public’s expectations of what a humane response should be,” he said.
“While we want to be compassionate to those on the streets, we have to respect the fact that people don’t want their doorways blocked, they don’t want their businesses blocked, they don’t want sidewalks impeded,” Wheeler noted.
In March, Wheeler pledged to “doggedly recover” during his “State of the Possible” address.
“Our community has what it takes to move forward to a much greater future,” he said.
In May, Portland said it would work to increase the number of urban homeless camps it removes because of public health and safety risks.
Notably, earlier this month, the Oregon Legislature gave final passage to a bill to protect homeless campers in public spaces; the bill had passed the House on April 15 and the Senate on June 9.
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The measure, which was sent to Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, mandates that any city or county law must be reasonable if it regulates “sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outdoors on public property.”
Under the measure, a homeless person charged with violating a ban on camping or loitering would have an affirmative defense against a law that is not objectively reasonable.
If Brown signs the bill, it will take effect on July 1, 2023.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.