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City makes homeless camp sweep

PORTLAND — The city on Thursday evicted about 200 or 300 homeless people who have been camping along a popular 21-mile bike and pedestrian trail after complaints from neighbors and concerns about environmental damage.

Portland has struggled in recent months with camping across the city. It faces a shortage of affordable housing as well as a lack of emergency shelter beds.

The sweep of the Springwater Corridor, which stretches from southeast Portland to Boring, Oregon, previously was set for Aug. 1, but homeless advocates asked for more time to find the campers alternative places to live.

The city and outreach workers began meeting with homeless people six weeks ago, but many still said they weren't sure where they were going.

Craig Alexenko, 54, said he wasn't sure where he could go. He sat on a pile of garbage that homeless people had left behind as city workers and volunteers moved through a large field and roped off sections of the encampment with yellow police tape.

"I need to get into housing. I've been on the streets too long," he said.

The sweep will take days on the 14-mile section of the trail that's been targeted, said Chad Stover, the city's livability project manager.

The scene was calm and quiet with little police presence. City workers and volunteers carried armloads of belongings for campers and helped them load them into shopping carts, bags and roller suitcases.

Jeremy Cooke, 40, right, pushes a shopping cart holding some of his belongings Thursday as a 200-person homeless encampment is removed along the Springwater Corridor in southeast Portland. The city of Portland has declared a 'homeless emergency' as skyrocketing rents, an affordable housing shortage and a lack of shelter beds has led to illegal encampments all across the city. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)