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More homeless camps found

Clean-up continues at Thousand Acres park and the Sandy River Delta in Troutdale

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: FRIENDS OF THE SANDY RIVER DELTA - Friends of the Sandy River Delta volunteers pick up trash left by transients at Thousand Acres park.Not two months after Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies conducted a sweep to remove transient camps from Troutdale’s Thousand Acres park, deputies are finding more camps, said Deputy Joe Graziano at a recent meeting in Corbett.

Deputies have been periodically checking the park while on routine patrol, Graziano said. And, not surprisingly, they are still finding homeless camps likely missed during the sweep earlier this fall.

Some camps are hard to find and easily missed because of the size and density of the park, he said.

There also is a possibility transients have set up new camps, Graziano said.

Graziano said he hopes to get approval to conduct future “mini-missions” at the park, where deputies would check on a regular basis for any new or lingering illegal campers.

“The plan is to have an agreement with the Forest Service and the Division of State Lands that will allow us (deputies) to enforce the no trespass laws on their lands and to do these checks about every other month,” he said.

Until then, officers continue to escort illegal campers out of the park and remove trash.

“It’s not a problem that’s going away in one day,” said Lt. Steve Alexander, spokesman at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

Alexander said the Sheriff’s Office hopes to arrange more clean-up and restoration efforts at Thousand Acres in the spring.

He said connecting the homeless with resource providers and helping them find a better place to live is part of the effort to reduce unlawful camping.

On Oct. 23, the sheriff’s deputies along with several other law enforcement agencies as well as the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Human Services targeted 30 or so homeless camps for removal from Thousand Acres and the Sandy River Delta.

Patrol units contacted 50 to 75 people living in the park, and outreach officers were on scene to help with the transition and offer people resources to find housing.

Police are required to give transients a 24-hour notice before they can start shuffling them out, said Graziano. What transients can’t carry out of the park, officers bag and keep at the sheriff’s office for up to 30 days for people to come and retrieve.

Volunteers pick up trash

Meanwhile, Friends of the Sandy River Delta have been picking up trash left behind by transients at Thousand Acres on the north side of Interstate 84 near the Sandy River.

Assisted by members of Corbett’s Citizen’s Patrol, volunteers trekked into the park twice in November to haul out furniture and debris from abandoned camp sites.

On one occasion they filled a 20-yard Dumpster with trash.

Friends’ volunteer Barbara Adams said the groups plan to be out there cleaning up once a month.

“Friends of the Sandy River is going to work on a regular basis to keep it trash free,” she said.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: FRIENDS OF THE SANDY RIVER DELTA - Some of the things volunteers found during November cleanup efforts.As part of the effort, the group has begun flagging alternative routes for delta visitors to use.

Before the big sweep, Adams said many park visitors — hikers, dog walkers, equestrians — were afraid to walk on certain trails if they knew the homeless camps were there.

She said some transients had vicious dogs. And while most delta regulars knew not to go down certain trails, Adams said, new visitors — like a couple of equestrians from Washington state — were startled when they came across homeless camps in the middle of the woods.

Adams said the group hopes to reclaim the land by winter, so trails can be ready for delta users by spring.

Jeff Schuh, chairman of Friends of the Sandy River Delta, wrote on the group’s website, “We truly surprised ourselves on how much we were able to haul out, and we made huge progress on the amount of debris left in the area. Though there still are numerous sites to clean up, this was a big dent by any measure.”

More research into transient nature

Deputy Graziano said he is interested in talking with the homeless people staying in Thousand Acres to learn why they are out there.

He wants to know if mental health, loss of a job, personal choice or drugs and alcohol play into the reasons they camp in the park.

“Last month I went there on a drug overdose call with roaming pit bulls,” he said.

He believes a lot of the panhandlers holding signs and working at the corner of the Interstate 84 and 238th Drive in Wood Village live in that camp.

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