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More Calls for the End of Street Sweeps from Homeless Advocates

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Leaders and activists in Portland’s homeless community told GoLocal on Monday that they are frustrated and fed-up with a policy of “sweeping”, or removing homeless people and their belongings from streets in the name of safety. 

“I was homeless in this city for over 6+ years on and off, so I've definitely been personally affected by the sweeps,” said Kif Davis, an advocate for the rights of homeless individuals told GoLocal. “There has been nights where it was raining really bad and I had to move five or six in the period of eight hours.I've seen the cops,  Clean & Safe, Pacific Patrol, Positive Action Cleaning and inmate worker crews throwing handicapped & elderly homeless people’s possessions away, including a walker, cops tossing homeless people's blankets and possessions into the rain on Christmas, all sorts of stuff. It's unbelievable what the homeless have to endure.”
It is not the first time that leaders and advocates claimed that police and public safety forces were harassing or seizing property from homeless people. As GoLocal reported, Ibrahim Mubarak and organizers and the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp, as well as other homeless resource and advocacy organizations around the city, claim that security forces been sweeping people from sidewalks despite assurances from the city government that sweeping would not occur during the winter.

Steve Kimes, a pastor and homeless advocate in Portland who is working closely with homeless camps such as Hazelnut Groves and the new Forgotten Realms, said that sweeping does not address the issues the policy aims to solve.

"People are always vulnerable, always nervous, always on alert to the newest danger on the horizon," Kimes said. "It is this reason that while the average American has a lifespan of 79 years, a homeless person has 48.  The threat of a sweep, like any moving day that comes suddenly without notice, is nerve wracking"

“Sweeps Really Hurt Them”

Davis said he has seen firsthand how the sweeps can hurt homeless individuals.

“The added burden of the homeless sweeps really hurts them,” Davis said. “I've witnessed homeless people having their civil rights abused, cops beating up pregnant women. These sweeps are killing people & the Mayor, the City and the cops and these private security forces are responsible. I've had friends die in the streets, including my girlfriend in 2007, a couple homeless people I know have died in the last year or  so. I usually know a couple homeless people that die every year in this city.”

Kimes agreed.

"To move a camp to a location that isn't flat means that your camp won't be secure from those who want to harm you or from the weather for some time," Kimes said. " It takes time to find and secure a solid camp.  In weather like what we've been having, the ground is muddy, locations are difficult, if not impossible to find, and the chances of waking up in a flood are high in a new site.  And when the weather might turn freezing at any moment, there are additional aspects to prepare for.  So take an over-stressed, under-rested person, force them to move to an insecure location, where they will be exposed to difficult-to-life-threatening weather."

Davis is head of Fight the Sweeps, an organization that seeks to “to stop the homeless sweeps entirely and to document and  film the sweeps and to offer the homeless any services we can help with.”

“We are a bunch of poor folks/formerly homeless so we don't have any budget to speak of,” Davis said of the group. “Our main goal is to document and film the sweeps and make sure the homeless people have some witnesses and make sure their rights aren't being violated beyond what the 'law' allows them to do.”

Kimes agreed.

“Right now, with the rains and the winter weather, it is inhumane to force people to move,” he said.

A New Resource Struggles to Survive

Kimes, whose church, the Anawim Christian Community, is devoted to helping the homeless population of Portland, has played a large role in the establishment of Hazelnut Grove, a large homeless camp in Portland. Kimes is currently working to support Forgotten Realms, a new homeless camp nearby Hazelnut Grove.

"Forgotten Realms thought that they might exist as a part of Hazelnut Grove, but since the threat of the sweeps it is clear that they are on the outside looking in," Kimes said. "Hazelnut Grove has suggested that some of the people in the outside camp might be able to come in, but they will not have room to accept all those who qualify.  The tension has been building in Forgotten Realms over this last week."

Kimes said that the camp has been overflowing with members and are in desperate need of supplies. The group is currently trying to organize in an effort to be taken seriously by the city government.

"There are eight founding members of the official Forgotten Realms, and they have voted in an Elected Coordinator, two Heads of Security, and two official spokespersons.  They are hammering out a code of conduct," Kimes said. "Most of the members have been involved in other organized tent cities, so they pretty much know what they want, and I am acting as secretary, writing as furiously as I can their constitution.  FR would like the opportunity to organize and be seen as an official camp."


Related Slideshow: 6 States With The Highest Homelessness Rates

These six states all had at least 300 out of 100,000 people homeless in 2013. 

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6. North Dakota

306 out of every 100,000 people were homeless in North Dakota in 2013.

Prev Next

5. Nevada

312 out of every 100,000 people were homeless in Nevada in 2013.

Prev Next

4. Oregon

360 out of every 100,000 people were homeless in Oregon in 2013.

Prev Next

3. California

367 out of every 100,000 people were homeless in California in 2013. 

Prev Next

2. New York

399 out of every 100,000 people were homeless in New York in 2013. 

Prev Next

1. Hawaii

465 out of every 100,000 people were homeless in Hawaii in 2013. 


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