Neighbors protest homeless camp at school bus stop

See how officials ‘solved’ the problem of letting dozens of kids off a school bus in front of a homeless encampment in Lents …

People associated with Lents Neighbors for Justice get ready to march on a homeless camp in outer East Portland which they say is a danger to kids who ride the school bus.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

A group calling itself Lents Neighbors for Justice, which calls their mission pointing out situations that reduce the livability of their neighborhood, rallied again on the afternoon of October 12.

On that occasion, about twenty people gathered at SE 97th Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard at a traffic island – the site of the neighborhood’s newest homeless camp.

Rally spokesperson Jennifer Young says unsavory and unsanitary conditions at this “island” homeless camp have gone from bad to worse.

“With up to 20 people living here, the campers engage in drug use, open urination, open defecation, and shouting on into the night, so residents are not able to sleep, and it has been really hard for nearby neighbors to take,” said their spokesperson, Jennifer Young.

“But the real problem is that Portland Public Schools has been dropping off a couple dozen kids, right on the sidewalk, next to the camp!” Young added.

Complaining loud and long to the city did result in trash pickup the day before their rally, Young said. “Even though these campers have been here just a few weeks, the rat infestation problem has really been getting out of hand, because of all the refuse in and round the camp.”

The day before the rally, rubbish was removed from this camp – but not the campers.

People drive by, waving and honking their support for the Lents Neighbors for Justice, stationed along SE Woodstock Boulevard.

The camp formed as the Springwater Corridor Trail was cleaned out, Tammy – a neighbor who lives directly across the street from the camp – told East Portland News.

“Nobody likes this view, or the smell from the camp, at all,” Tammy said. “Me and my neighbors have anything left outside stolen; the campers scream at us; and they don’t care who sees them do drugs – it’s really a bad place for kids to be forced to gather to go to school.”

The bus carrying kids from Oliver Lent Elementary School pulls in and slows near the camp.

About 3:15 p.m., a large yellow PPS school bus, headed east on SE Woodstock Boulevard, turned south onto SE 97th Avenue. Instead of stopping in front of the encampment, the driver traveled a half-block further into the neighborhood before coming to a stop.

A half-block south of the camp, the school bus stops, and parents race to fetch their children.

“Even though the bus isn’t stopping in front of the camp anymore, we still make sure one of us is out here to get our kids off the bus and walk them home – this just doesn’t feel safe,” said Heather Gramercy as she took her little ones by the hand.

“Our community has endured so much crime, along with the concentration of the houseless over the past year, and has been ignored long enough,” Young asserted. “It is time for the city to address this camp, and we demand immediate action from our city.”

After dropping off a dozen or so children, the school bus heads out for its next stop.

Asked if these Lents Neighbors for Justice rallies have produced tangible results, Young smiled and replied that the camp they picketed on SE Lafayette Street near the Powell Boulevard DMV has been cleaned up. [CLICK HERE to read our story, ’Drug camp’ protested in Lents].

“That camp was finally cleared today,” Young reported. “All that is there now are a couple of piles of trash. For the first time for in a year, that area is now clear.”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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