Within 24 hours, Portland cleans up homeless camps, begins building pickleball courts
'It’s a great opportunity to revamp areas of the park,' a spokesperson for the mayor says
Within a 24-hour period this week, a homeless encampment at a Portland, Oregon, park was removed, and a construction crew showed up to build pickleball courts and a skate ramp in its place.
Homelessness has skyrocketed in Portland, most notably during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more than two years, tents have lined a two-block area of Laurelhurst Park, according to Willamette Week.
On Monday, the homeless encampments were removed by city officials, and by Tuesday morning, construction crews showed up to build courts for the popular paddle sport called pickleball, KOIN 6 reported. A skate ramp and bicycle course will also be built in the area, Portland Parks and Recreation told KOIN 6.
"These plans for Laurelhurst Park have been in the work for some time. It’s a great opportunity to revamp areas of the park to better serve the community — something that the neighborhood has been asking for," a spokesperson for Mayor Ted Wheeler's office told Fox News Digital on Thursday.
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The homeless living at the park were given a week’s notice to leave the area and were offered stays at a shelter and free storage for additional belongings, the mayor's office told Fox.
A Parks and Recreation spokesperson told KOIN 6 that they cannot remember the last time a mayor has made such a decision, while some residents and activists in the area are scratching their heads over the move.
"These people have to find a place to stay warm at night, and it’s not easy," homeless advocate Pat Schwiebert told Fox 12.
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"The part where they have been staying, they chose that because it wasn’t in front of somebody’s house. Most of the people that live on that street are reasonable people they’re just trying to survive," Schwiebert added.
A woman who lives in the neighborhood described to KOIN 6 that a solution to the homeless population in the city needs to go farther than one park.
"I don’t know if the perception to the public is that it’s Laurelhurst and not everywhere else, that it’s a solution just for this neighborhood instead of a bigger solution for all of homelessness in the city," said resident Annette Shaff-Palmer. "Lents deserves a solution, Laurelhurst deserves a solution, downtown deserves a solution, it’s not just this neighborhood."
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The number of homeless people in the Portland area has increased by about 50% since 2019, according to recent data. The mayor’s office projected earlier this year that there are about 6,000 people living on the streets in the Portland region. The figure is considered an undercount, but is still markedly higher than the estimated 4,000 people who were homeless in 2019.