A cluster of tents forms the beginning of the homeless encampment that runs along the Bayside Trail on April 27. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Plans to clear a large encampment from the Bayside Trail in Portland will remain on hold while the city gathers more feedback and examines how to best address health and safety concerns as well as the needs of the people living in the tents.

During an emergency meeting of the City Council’s Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, councilors and city leaders discussed recommendations by the director of health and human services to create a task force that would oversee a team providing daily outreach, food, medical services and harm reduction, with the ultimate goal getting people into shelter or housing.

They also heard from staff and councilors who have been inundated with emails and calls about the encampment, and from department heads who believe more action is needed in the short-term.

“I see tonight as the very beginning of a big and long lasting conversation that will require more,” said Mayor Kate Snyder.


Tuesday’s meeting followed the city’s announcement last month of plans to clear the encampment –about 50 tents stretching from Trader Joe’s to Franklin Street – for health and safety reasons.


Occupants of tents along the trail were put on notice last Wednesday that the city intended to remove them. But those plans were put on hold Thursday after the Emergency Shelter Assessment Committee, consisting largely of providers and advocates who work with the homeless, requested a 30-day moratorium and asked the city to meet with them.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Snyder said there are still unanswered questions, including what providers think of the plans discussed by the council.

“I’m eager to see how partners would want to step in,” Snyder said, adding that she wants to find out if the state can offer assistance.

Aaron Geyer, the city’s director of social services, said he was already contacting members of the committee to see if they could meet as early as Wednesday to gather feedback.

The council’s health and human services committee meets again next Tuesday, and members said they hope to revisit the discussion. Committee Chair April Fournier asked for feedback about what the city should do if the camp needs to be removed.

“Do they have ideas or solutions on how to help individuals who will be moved and make sure they aren’t losing resources, that they continue to be safe and that it’s done in a coordinated and humane way?” Fournier said.


Interim City Manager Danielle West said staff will put removal on pause, but that the next steps should come quickly.

“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback and the calls for service have increased, so my concerns are significant there,” West said.


Portland is housing about 1,150 people a night its two shelters, the Expo gymnasium and hotels.

Several city ordinances prohibit camping on public property, but city policy also says that when city-run shelters are full, staff will take a “general non-involvement” approach to unauthorized campsites. However, they may remove them if they pose a hazard or are in an “emphasis area” where camping has led to past problems.

Interim Police Chief Heath Gorham said calls for service have shot up in the area around the trail compared to last year. In April, there were 145 calls for service compared to fewer than 40 in April 2022, he said.


“The staff time has really expanded exponentially in a short period of time,” Gorham said.

Some neighboring businesses have also complained about the encampment, including ConvenientMD, a healthcare provider that submitted written public comment calling the situation “dire, untenable and out-of-control.” ConvenientMD said it has encountered drug use in their parking lot and harassment of staff.

Kristen Dow, the city’s director of health and human services, has recommended that the city form a task force to include representatives of various city departments, outreach providers, emergency shelter and housing providers and medical and mental health care providers that would meet at least twice per week whenever there is an encampment being considered for removal.

Tents line the Bayside Trail on April 27. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

One of the task force’s main responsibilities would be to oversee a “mobile engagement center” that would deploy daily on a set schedule to provide food, medical care, harm reduction and other resources.

“The ultimate goal of both the task force and the engagement center would be to assist individuals in getting into safe and secure shelter and housing,” Dow said.

Councilors seemed receptive to her plan, and Dow said much of the outreach work is already taking place with the help of community providers and nonprofits. The task force and outreach team would provide better coordination and structure, Dow said, but could take time to work.


“I’m not naïve,” Dow said. “I want to be honest – this approach will take some time to implement and see results. I would say to pull together and clear a large encampment, it might take two months.”


Some city leaders, however, said there is no time to waste.

“I support moving forward with the task force, but I don’t think Bayside is the place to start that,” Gorham said. “We’ve heard from the community and quite frankly with the calls for service and sanitation issues down there, it’s not a healthy or safe environment.”

Gorham said he thinks the encampment should first be moved, and then the city could proceed with Dow’s proposal.

Ethan Hipple, director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities Management,  said he also supports Dow’s plan, but that the park around the Bayside Trail is not usable in the meantime.


“It is not safe to go there,” Hipple said. “My own staff have had accidental needle sticks, asthma attacks, workers comp cases, guns pulled on them. I’ve had to have them go through self-defense trainings and authorize certain staff to carry pepper spray. What does that say about our parks?”

Councilor Anna Trevorrow said trash removal and bathrooms are needed immediately, a concern echoed by Councilor Andrew Zarro.

Zarro said he wants to seek more help from the state and find out whether there are any surplus state funds to help the city or service providers.

“We’ve had communication after communication at City Council meetings over the last few years saying we want to involve the state and that we need the state’s help, yet here we are,” Zarro said. “What do we need to do?”

He also asked staff what councilors should tell the public while a plan is being worked on.

West said the city is already spending millions on shelter, but every bed is full. She said Dow’s plan is a good option, but she is also worried.

“I’m worried we don’t have housing options and we’re not going to see the results we want,” she said. “I hear daily from members of the public, the business community and community partners. I’m concerned and I feel awful to say there is nothing in the interim to address the situation.”

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