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Outreach organization reflects on Portland push to remove homeless camps

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    PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) — As Portland begins removing homeless camps next week, outreach organizations are sharing how this will impact the communities they work with every day.

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare Clinical Director of Homeless and Housing Support, Kim James reflected on this shift coming soon to the streets of Portland.

“At this point we are moving folks to be self-sufficient and at this point where we are right now, it served a purpose it was created for that purpose and right now we are standing in a situation where the mission is changing a little bit so we have to adapt,” James said.

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare works with those living on the streets and helps people struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

James says the announcement by the city this week to start removing homeless camps is not a surprise.

“I think most of the people we work with understood that this was a temporary pause on how we did work before,” James said.

James says this is part of the process of getting back to some normalcy.

FOX 12 reported during the peak of the pandemic that the City of Portland was not removing homeless camps due to health and safety.

James spoke to the misconception she believes that may be coming out of this announcement.

“My understanding is they’ll be adding probably about seven to 10 more campsites a week,” James said. “This work has never stopped. So that’s one thing that’s one thing that I think people are missing. They’re hearing terms like aggressive and sweep and things like that – I think we stay away from the word sweeps because once we start using that, that allows us to sort of de-humanize the folks that are you know living their private lives outside.”

She says the ultimate goal is to provide a safe location for people, whether that’s an apartment, a campsite or a corner.

To some, it may look like there’s a lot to clean up across the city.

James says there’s a misconception about that too.

“You know there could be a campsite report of oh my God there’s 10 tents. But there could be two people,” James said. “So the assumption is when you see a tent, it’s not necessarily a person assigned to it. It would be as if I had my apartment with five bedrooms or five rooms and I have my stuff in the other four. So the assumption is people see more tents, I’m not sure they’re seeing more people.”

James says that’s because many have had nowhere to go, as shelters have been shut down during the pandemic.

She says typically people would pack up their stuff and go to these resources during the day.

But with the citywide push to relocate certain homeless campsites some say this only addresses one layer of the issue.

FOX 12 spoke with Charles Johnson who’s used services with Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare.

“If there’s no services for those people that impact is just going to happen somewhere else, it’s not going to go down so how we get those people into shelters if they can’t sleep next to other people without proper mental health care, it’s kind of a scary question,” Johnson said.

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