A bucket loader and public works crew waited as Paul Hooper lined up a cluster of shopping carts, tied them with rope and loaded up plastic bags of his belongings.

He pulled two tents out of the crew’s path as a friend moved the bicycles he had outside his tents.

“What am I supposed to do?” Hooper asked as he used a knife to cut the rope into smaller pieces. “I have nowhere to go.”

Hooper, 42, is among dozens of people who have been living in tents on Portland’s Bayside Trail but were forced to move Tuesday when the city cleared the encampment.

Typically, it’s against city policy to move homeless camps when city shelters are full, as has been the case for several months.

But officials, who have been debating for weeks about clearing the camp, said it was a health and safety risk, citing a rise in police calls and complaints from local businesses. At the same time, advocates have expressed concerns about the risks and trauma that clearing the encampment could bring to the people living there.


The situation has highlighted the homelessness crisis in Portland and the state. The city is currently sheltering about 1,200 people on a nightly basis, and all city shelters are full, including the Portland Expo, which opened in April as a temporary shelter for asylum-seeking families.

The city decided last week to move ahead with clearing the encampment after a meeting with the City Council’s Health and Human Services & Public Safety Committee. The director of parks and recreation said at the time that the camp had grown to 84 tents, out of 128 citywide.

“The encampment on the Bayside Trail presents significant health and safety hazards – to campers, the general public, the nearby business community, and city staff,” City Manager Danielle West said in a memo to the council Monday. She said people were given verbal and written notice of the city’s plans last week.

“Over the past month, despite multiple warnings that the encampment was scheduled for removal, it has grown in size,” West wrote. “Trash receptacles placed onsite to assist campers in properly disposing of waste have not been effective in addressing the hazardous conditions.”

By midday Tuesday, city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said that the clearing had gone as planned and no major problems arose. Several Portland police officers were on hand helping wake people in the early hours, but there were no arrests or summonses, a police department spokesperson said.



At 8 a.m., dozens of tents lined the trail stretching from Trader Joe’s to Franklin Street. Police, public works and city parks staff were all present as the clearing started, as well as community members and private groups that were helping people move. The city said members of its public health harm reduction team also were on site.

After months of living on the trail, many people had accumulated large collections of belongings – furniture, potted plants, bicycles. Trash also was piled up, some strewn about on the grass and some stuffed into plastic bags.

Spencer, 32, who wouldn’t provide his last name, packs his belongings Tuesday morning before city workers arrived to clear out an encampment on the Bayside Trail. Spencer said he wasn’t sure where he would go next and expressed disappointment in the city’s decision to clear the camp. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Spencer, who declined to give his last name, said he understood the city’s decision.

“This trail is a big tourist spot,” said Spencer, 32, as he rummaged through a shopping cart and packed up his tent. “People like renting a bike and going down the bike trail, and this is an eyesore.”

He said he probably would sleep in a doorway Tuesday night.

He said the people living on the trail do clean up, but it’s hard. “Three days later or four days later after everyone has been getting high, it’s a mess,” Spencer said. “I understand why they’re clearing it, but they could at least be humane and give us another option.”


The city has said that anyone who is homeless should visit its social services office at 39 Forest Ave. for help finding resources. In her memo Monday, West said the city would pay for transportation costs if people have a family member or friend they can stay with temporarily, and people can also get notifications when shelter beds open up.

Portland police Maj. Jason King rouses a sleeping man, who wouldn’t provide his name, as city workers load a dump truck with the remnants of the homeless encampment along the Bayside Trail on Tuesday morning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

If people still have no other options aside from sleeping outdoors, the city recommends they keep campsites small and away from public roads or paths.

Courtney Bass, a mobile outreach supervisor at Milestone Recovery, a nonprofit that offers substance use treatment, a 36-bed emergency shelter and other resources, said her group was among several agencies at the trail Tuesday giving out food and water and helping people move.

Portland police and city workers walk along the Bayside Trail after clearing out a homeless encampment on Tuesday morning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“It’s pretty traumatizing, and no one has any answers to where can we bring people,” Bass said.

Bass said the city could have set up more trash cans or designated a camping area with bathrooms rather than remove the encampment. It can be hard to find a safe place to camp that’s out of the public eye, she said.

“If people are more divided, there are more chances of overdosing in the woods alone,” she said. “Nobody is there to help. A lot of things can happen when people are isolated – assaults, and it’s not good for your mental health. A lot of these people already feel worthless and not really seen or heard as it is.”



Several people said they didn’t know where they would go.

“I don’t know. I’ll probably lose all my (belongings) because I have nowhere to go,” said Andrew Flagg, who moved several garbage bags, a tent and a wheelchair to a street corner as the camp was cleared.

Andrew Flagg, 38, stands among his belongings on Chestnut Street after leaving a homeless encampment on the nearby Bayside Trail. Flagg said he wasn’t sure where he would go next. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Heather, who did not want to give her last name because she did not want family members to find out she was homeless, was trying to figure out her next move alongside others who had gathered at the edge of the lawn surrounding the trail and a nearby parking lot.

Heather, 41, said she became homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic. She had been providing direct care support to an elderly man who also rented her an apartment, but when she lost the job she also lost her apartment. “His situation changed with family,” Heather said. “He had to let me go.”

Around the same time, her mother and brother died. “It was like one thing after the next,” she said.


Heather planned to talk to some of the outreach workers about what to do next, and she also had learned of an organization that she thought she could reach out to for case management.

“You want to have some type of stability with housing before you reach out to get a job,” she said. “So I’m working with my health care providers and therapy and everything trying to figure it out.”

The city is planning to set up an ad-hoc encampment task force in the future that will work to coordinate outreach efforts to encampments in advance of scheduled removal dates and provide homeless people with connections to services.

Grondin, the city spokesperson, said staff are meeting Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to get feedback on the task force structure and operation. A time line for setting up the group should follow after the meeting, she said.

It was not clear where the Bayside Trail campers went after the city cleared out the site. On Tuesday evening, around 6:45 p.m., the area behind Trader Joe’s was empty, with no sign of campers or tents. And there were no signs of campers at other sites that have been used in the past.

Last year, a large homeless encampment was set up in a section of Deering Oaks closest to the United States Post Office building on Forest Avenue, but on Tuesday night the site was empty as was the rest of the park. The city cleared out the Deering Oaks encampment in September 2022.

Another site that has attracted homeless campers in the past has been along the Fore River Parkway trail, but on Tuesday night there were no tents or campers. A grassy area near the Western Promenade Cemetery contained a couple of small, unoccupied tents on Tuesday evening, but there was no evidence of major encampments like the 80 or so tents that had been along Bayside Trail.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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