A pile of trash and a tarp-covered structure sit at a former homeless encampment behind Lowe’s in Portland, which appeared to be abandoned on Friday afternoon. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The woods behind Lowe’s on Brighton Avenue in Portland were quiet. Rain pounded on big blue tarps that clung to trees in the wind. Abandoned sleeping bags and piles of clothes soaked in mud puddles. “No trespassing” signs were tacked up along the perimeter of the woods, where dilapidated tents were still tucked away.

It was all that was left of a homeless encampment that had stood for years before it was cleared Thursday.

Portland police posted the signs last Tuesday, warning those living there that they had to be out by Thursday or face arrest, city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said.

They did so at the behest of John Cimino, who manages the nearby shopping center that houses Lowe’s, Joanne Fabrics and a few other businesses.

“We started to get complaints about trash, verbal abuse, drunkenness. We were getting reports of drug deals out there. I feel very bad for the people,” Cimino said. “In years past, it was only a handful of people up there, and they minded their own business. Now with the city cracking down on these homeless camps, everyone migrated to that camp, and it became triple in size overnight, so that was the problem.”

But neither Cimino nor his employer actually owns the land where the camp stood.


A representative for Rand Rock LLC, the company that does own the property, wrote in a statement Friday that it had nothing to do with initiating the sweep.

Andrew Gendron, the director of marketing, said Rand Rock had been concerned about the safety of people camping on its land and had been in talks with other businesses about how to handle the situation, but the company did not ask police to move people off the property.

“We were not made aware of the actions taken (Thursday) prior to the incident, but we understand after conversations with the Portland Police that there were no arrests made and authorities encouraged people on the property to remove their personal belongings,” Gendron wrote.

Wind buffets a tarp stretched over a structure at a homeless encampment behind Lowe’s in Portland, which seemed abandoned on Friday afternoon. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

But Cimino says that’s not true and that he was in touch with Rand Rock throughout the entire process.

He said the company even authorized him to speak on its behalf to the city.

Gendron refuted that claim too.


“We didn’t authorize him to speak on our behalf, weren’t notified of next step meetings he conducted with the city of Portland and didn’t directly request the encampment sweep. … We were only notified of the encampment sweep by John Cimino via text message, as it was happening,” Gendron wrote in an email Monday.

Gendron said Rand Rock already has begun the process of restoring the area. The company dispatched a landscaper over the weekend to make a plan for cleaning up what was left behind.

And he said the company plans to work with anyone who was living at the camp to give them a chance to recover their belongings. He said the company also plans to trim trees and shrubs on the property to deter people from camping there in the future.

Those living at a homeless encampment behind Lowe’s in Portland were told they had to leave by Thursday or face arrest for trespassing. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Just a few months ago, right after an encampment at Harbor View Memorial Park was cleared, the wooded camp behind Lowe’s was bustling. About 30 people were living there. Bicycle tires and scrap art hung from trees. Pallets were stacked under tents to protect their inhabitants from the cold ground. Some campers had been living there for more than a year.

One man who had been living there since July 2022 said he hoped it could fly under the radar and not get swept.

It wasn’t near any parks. It wasn’t downtown. It was tucked in the woods. The people living there had built a functional community with rules and limits on campers and systems for disposing of trash.


But in the end, the camp wasn’t discreet enough to avoid the attention of nearby businesses, which ultimately wanted the residents gone.


Outreach workers from the city and Preble Street had been working with the people living there for months to get them into shelter or more permanent housing.

Henry Myer, Preble Street’s director of street outreach, wrote in an email Friday that he was concerned when he found out about the sweep and requested shuttle buses directly to the city shelter from the parking lot, which he said didn’t happen.

“Any time an encampment is swept we are concerned about where people will go and how we will be able to reconnect with them to continue to provide outreach and help them meet their basic needs,” Myer wrote. “The people who remain unsheltered in Portland right now have really complex clinical presentations and have fallen through the cracks.”

Grondin and Myer said everything went smoothly Thursday when the camp was cleared and that everyone cooperated and left peacefully.

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