Neighbors protest ‘Camp Reedway’

While the Springwater Corridor Trail is being cleaned out, see why Lents neighbors are concerned that a large camp could be established nearby …

Working to close the gate left open to the “Reedway Site” in Lents, just west of Beggars Tick Wildlife Refuge, are Thomas Legg and Jon Jacob Deal – both with Lents Neighbors for Justice.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

One of the issues brought up during the August 23 Lents Neighborhood Association (LNA) meeting, called to deal with issues surrounding homeless campers in the area, was the potential development of what is referred to as the “Reedway Site” as a potential supervised campground.

>To see that story, CLICK HERE.

Protesters line up at SE 104th Avenue and Reedway Street, objecting to the possible siting of a homeless camp.

Although a City of Portland official denied that the site, covered with giant mounds of contaminated soil, was already designated to become a supervised homeless camp, neighbors came out anyway to protest the possibility of an encampment being located there.

The entrance to the site is located off of SE Reedway Street, a block east of SE 104th Avenue, where it dead-ends into a lot on the western edge of the Beggars Tick Wildlife Refuge.

This is one of many signs posted in a vacant lot, where the City of Portland reportedly considered setting up a supervised homeless camp.

Neighbor Sara Nesta expresses her opinion with a #HalesFails sign.

Having lived just around the corner from the Reedway Site for 28 years, Sara Nesta told us why she’d joined the protest.

“This is a residential area, and that makes you wonder what’s going on down at City Hall,” Nesta said, while holding a sign saying, #HalesFails.

“It doesn’t make sense that [officials] would want to put a 100-person homeless camp there at the end of the street,” Nesta told East Portland News.

“I don’t want people to be without a home, but not all of the ‘campers’ are nice people,” Nesta said. “Some of the people who are around here are criminals; thieves.

“For me, ‘Hales Fails’ because he doesn’t seem to care about our neighborhood, by moving the homeless problem into Lents,” Nesta opined.

Broken tape shows where the homeless continue to go deep into the Beggars Tick Wildlife Refuge to set up camp.

Nicholas Manusos says he fears the officials will build a camp at the Reedway Site, without input from Lents neighbors.

“There’s a lot of fear in this neighborhood; it affects our lives,” said protest organizer Nicholas Manusos. “We don’t want to just have it taken away from us.”

He’s concerned about the hypothesized campground, Manusos said, because he lives a few blocks from the site. “I’m here representing myself and my family; the other neighbors are here who I asked to come and support me.”

In the two decades they’ve lived in the neighborhood, Manusos said he’s seen neighbors work to improve the area’s livability. “But, in the last year especially, there have been a lot of changes that are negatively affecting our livability and safety.

“My children can’t go skateboarding and ride their bikes around our streets, and they don’t feel safe going to parks,” Manusos told East Portland News. “We don’t bicycle on the Springwater Trail anymore, or explore Beggars Tick Wildlife Area.”

This sign, posted by neighbors on the gate to the Reedway Site, urges officials to restore the natural areas.

City policies have pushed homeless camping into a compressed area in in his neighborhood, suggested Manusos.

Getting to the meat if the issue, Manusos said, “Having a camp in a residential neighborhood with no services is not a viable solution to the problem. If it was, I think the city would’ve proceeded in a more public manner. It seems like they’ve been secretly organizing the site for months without any public input.” The city still says there is no firm plan for a homeless camp there at this time.

When asked if residents are “NIMBYs”, Manusos responded, “We’re not saying ‘not in my backyard’; but we have shouldered the burden of the city’s homeless problem for so long, we’re just feeling broken at this point.”

From what he’d heard, Manusos remarked, it appeared as if the city was going forward with their plans to establish a camp at the Reedway Site after contaminated soil was removed. “Doing this, without any public involvement or neighborhood involvement, [would be] awful.”

Michael Davis, with Knowing Me Ministries, tells why he’s familiar with the Reedway Site.

A pastor who works with the homeless – in fact, who has been homeless himself: Michael Davis, of “Knowing Me Ministries” – revealed that the organization had managed an apparently-unofficial camp on the property they called “Green Acres”.

“We had about 12 people on the property who came in, and cleaned up the trash left behind by others, and provided security here,” Davis said.

“We were working with the Mayor’s office on policies for the camp, developed six leaders from the homeless community, built relationships with neighbors and the businesses in the area, and, petty crime went down here,” explained Davis.

But, the City told them to vacate the property, so they could remove the dirt that is believed contaminated.

“One of the reasons I promote houseless communities like this is, a lot of people have been out on the streets for maybe 10 or 15 years,” Davis said. “It’s very hard for them to jump from tents into housing because they are adapted to outdoor living; an organized camp gives them that first step.”

Organized camps are the answer to homelessness, Davis suggested. “I agree with a lot of our neighbors who say that camping isn’t the solution; but, it can be the first step that so many people need. Because they learned how to get along in our community, about eight people from are camp are now very close to being housed.”

He didn’t come out to incite neighbors at the protest, Davis pointed out. “I am hopeful I can help some of our neighbors see that there is more to homelessness the lack of housing.”

Throughout the day, neighbors protest against homeless camping in their neighborhood.

Still no Reedway Camp resolution
On September 1, City of Portland Office of Mayor Charlie Hales Policy Director of Livability Chad Stover updated East Portland News about the Reedway Site.

“Moving the dirt is the number one goal; this dirt isn’t good for the neighbors now, and is not good for a potential of a camp,” Stover said

“As I explained last week, we’re not moving forward with this unless we can do it the right way: Finding the right nonprofit normative organization, get the right sleeping pod inventory in place, and finding the right place.

“Whether that would be at Reedway or another location remains to be seen,” Stover added. “We are very interested in pursuing it.”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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