Homeless campers in North Portland say the city has failed them

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About 50 people live in a homeless encampment along the Peninsula Crossing Trail in North Portland.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Tents, garbage and old food line parts of the Peninsula Crossing Trail in North Portland. The once-popular bike path has turned into a highway for homeless campers.

“So this is our community area right here,” said TT Sanchez, who lives in one of the campsites. “They call me the camp mom.”

Sanchez pointed out a tent that campers along the trail use for group meals that she calls “banquets.” She said her campsite is more of a home for her than any place else right now. 

“It’s more like a community. It’s family. We’ve been here so long that we should have some type of residency.” 

While the camp has been there for years, Sanchez hasn’t. Last year, she and her husband got an apartment through a city-run program, but they didn’t make enough money to keep up with the rent. Four months ago, they found themselves right back in these tents along the Peninsula Crossing Trail. 

“We don’t want to be here,” she admitted. “This is not what we want out of our life.”

RELATED: Cycle of Portland homeless camp cleanups leaves campers demoralized, neighbors frustrated

But other campers, such as Jeffrey Moore, prefer this lifestyle. “I’m kind of a free spirit. I kind of chose it,” he said.

The city just cleared some camps along the Peninsula Crossing Trail, but many of those living there just moved their camps a few blocks away. 

“You can’t pull up on a street and decide, ‘I’m going to live here.’ It’s just not fair to the community,” said Judy Kane, who lives on the corner of North Princeton and Stanford. An RV now sits outside her kitchen window.

“It’s insanity. I just want our city to go back to the basics: parking, ordinances, codes,” she said.

“The community is at its wit’s end,” added Tom Karwaki, who chairs the neighborhood association. He hopes the Safe Rest Village the city planned along the Peninsula Crossing Trail helps to clean up their neighborhood and give those living on their streets a place to go. 

KGW reached out to Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office for comment but didn’t hear back right away.

RELATED: City removes certain homeless camps along NE 33rd & Marine Drive

“The city can do better, the county can do better, we as a community and as a state can do better,” said Karwaki. “No one feels safe. Generally, from the housed community and the unhoused community, many don’t feel safe.”

But Sanchez hopes that people who live in the area are able to see them as people rather than a threat. 

“We’re not monsters at all,” Sanchez said. “God made us all the same and made us all equal, so I don’t see what’s different or why people seem like they’re scared of us.”

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