Part 2: Continued from Article 1 –Hillsboro’s Hidden Homeless Crisis Out In The Open At Camp Hope
We recently covered the rising homeless (Unhoused) population that has shown up along TV Highway adjacent to the Pioneer cemetery. People in the homelessness advocacy circles call this camp “McKay” for the creek that runs along the lands Western border. In part one of our story, which has been read over 4,000 times, we introduced the readers to our new friend Jim, a homeless man who spends his days in Downtown Hillsboro and his nights at the camp in a small tent made from a tarp. Jim told us he calls the place Camp Hope- as being there is his last hope for a place he can stay without being evicted. Please read Part 1 to get the full framework for the rest of this story.
We visited the site in mid-December and delivered 30 bags of food and survival goods provided by Hillsboro resident Connie Bradley. What happened next was unintended but organic. One by one, the people living there came out to see what we had for them. We were glad to distribute them; that was the easy part. But what they really wanted to do was talk. Everyone we approached wanted to tell us their plight. Among them were the lack of bathrooms, crime in the camp, the freezing temperatures, mounting garbage, and despair.
Matt Andersen, our Co-Editor, was with me, and as we began to talk, both he and I were immediately drawn into the raw facts. There in the muck and garbage and filth, we saw humanity in America struggling to survive. How lucky we are, all of us with homes and apartments; any of us with a home. Very.
Let us share a few of the folks we met with you and what they wanted to communicate to the world and our community.
Danny– (46) from the local area and was born and raised here. He lost his job a couple of years ago. Shortly after, he lost his home. His parents don’t have any room for him, so he has been living in a tent. He wants access to showers and believes the community needs a shelter or campground for unhoused people. He hopes to get a place to live and a job again. He said they were told they have to leave soon by authorities. He was moved off another site before ending up at this camp.
Laura – (60) also from the area. She has been here most of her life. She believes that too much money is being spent with advocates and law enforcement more worried about counting the homeless and tracking their movements than on helping. She wants bathrooms and to be left alone.
Derrick – (30) This young man was energetic and upbeat. He is a traveler and just moving through the West. He was sharing a tent with another person. He says he needs help with his papers, his ID, and other paperwork. Sooner or later, he is Texas bound.
Jessica – (50) Her wonderful smile is a gift. She is local, graduated from Glencoe High School here in Hillsboro. She was sleeping on the wet ground with only a blue tarp to keep the freezing rains off. She too lost her job and her home. She wants to be able to stay on the property but knows the authorities have been warning them of a sweep. When asked what would help her improve her life, she said a shower and hot coffee. Two things she has lost access to in 2020, thanks to Covid.
Sarah – (50) She grew up in Seaside, became homeless in Portland, and is now in Hillsboro. She prefers the term “home challenged.” She enjoys living the lifestyle by choice. She wants to stay, and she and her partner had a spotless area, were well equipped, and were enjoying their kitty.
Rick & Jan and Red– These folks were Forest Grove locals and attended local schools. They had developed a secure entrance to what appeared to be about 6 tents circled up side by side in a protected ring. Rick didn’t want a photo taken but said they desperately needed bathrooms and that they lived at a city property nearby before being pushed on this site. Rick’s friend, Red, is the one who said he’d like to talk more and wanted to know if we would come and do a town hall and listen to the concerns of the group.
We saw about 40 tents in total at Camp Hope/McKay, but there were many more along the creek just above the floodwaters and to the North in the adjacent woods. Another local said he was the camp’s unofficial mayor and that about 60 people were living at the site. He said a sweep (note the proper term maybe but he said it) was coming on January 3rd, 2021 and that many of them were not going to leave and had nowhere to go. He echoed that this was a place that many of the campers have come because they had nowhere else to go. After being pushed off other parks and campsites, this land has become the last site. He added as he left that he and others if forced, would move to downtown Hillsboro and look for help.
Bathrooms, showers, a place to camp and live. Break it down like that and it does not seem like too much to ask. These are not problems we collectively can not solve.
The City Weighs In
After our first article many of you, our readers, called and expressed concerns. Not just for Camp Hope but for other sites around the City. That led to some interactions with the City Managers’ office and some great conversations and sharing of information. Here is a summary of what we all discussed:
- The City is aware that this property and others have to be a priority and that something should be done.
- There is a plan to notify the campers on the land (Jan 3-4th) that they are camped illegally and that moving off the land will be required in the near future.
- The City is willing to look at some locations where a safe and clean camp/shelter can be run or developed in partnership or support of one of the organizations with a mission to do so. This is super encouraging.
- Bathrooms are being looked at for this next week somewhere at or near the campsite.
- Portable showers may be coming from a partner soon.
- The City is working on this issue in the next few weeks.
There are so many layers to the problems facing the unhoused, the people like those we met. Yes, mental health and substance abuse issues for this sector of our population are very real problems. But those things face us all. We can all talk about all the solutions we want but there is no question that the lack of secure housing trumps all other issues. Listening to them all speak it was crystal clear that housing or a secure campsite was what they need. A place with simple bathrooms, water, and enough room to put up a tent. Can Hillsboro get behind that? Only time will tell.
Have a great start to 2021 everyone.
I would like to help in any wY possible. These people need our support! NOW!
I believe in human decency but I also believe in taking care of yourself. Those that just lost a job and truly want a job to be able to get a hone again, they need help.
Those that choose this lifestyle but don’t financially contribute to their housing situation, I’m not going to pay for them. They, like everyone else, need to find a legal source of income and pay for a place. If they buy a place and choose to live In their backyard to emulate this lifestyle, that’s their choice. But right now, their “choice” is a burden on the rest of us. They are taking resources from people that truly need and want help to get back on their feet.
I know there are many with drug and mental health issues on the street. I had a close family member in such a situation so I know the struggle. They need a different type of help but they also need to want the help.
I am not for continuing to pay my tax dollars so others don’t have to work… because they don’t want to. But I am for helping those that want to help themselves. Learn to fish… eat for a day or eat for a lifetime – you know the story and I really believe in it.
I work really hard to have what I have. Others should too.
You are entitled to your opinions. So what is the solution? Should we jail them? That would be 10 times the cost of a shelter. Force them at gunpoint off the land? We could drive a bulldozer through there – they already left several other sites. Without some base level of safe housing (tent spaces in a secure location) they can not even make a slight move ahead. Especially in winter.
I think jail should be an option. Tough love is needed in most of the cases. There are always exceptions though. Laws need to be enforced, and do not enable or encourage this lifestyle.
That is why America is such a great country- we all have a right to express our beliefs.
Brenda, some are capable of working but many are not able to work due to disability and/or mental illness. We are sorely lacking in the services and desire to help those individuals. Even those who are suffering from addiction deserve a better option than local officials periodically trashing everything they have when they become a nuisance to individuals that are better off and telling them to move on while not providing any help or resources. “Love thy neighbor” even if (and especially if) your neighbor is unhoused or needs help.
Thanks for trying to help all that are house less Dirk. I think of them more than once daily, as I pass by them at this camp many times. I wish we could find help for them. Every one deserves shelter, food and their dignity and safety.
They do- in a nation like this they really do!
You also forgot to mention that some of them are criminals. One of them you mentioned in your story assaulted a women at Winco. Funny, you don’t mention anything about the drug issues either.
Also, as mentioned before, some don’t want to seek help and get a job. Most of them want things handed to them on a platter.
How would she know any of that? How is it you have first hand knowledge of those things? And if you do please report those to the police. That would be the responsible thing for a citizen to do.
Thank you for your input.
I work at night downtown. I have talked to many house challenged folks. I’ve told some they need to leave (it’s illegal to loiter where I work). I’ve had to clean up feces and waste and it’s not fun. Most listen, some don’t want to go. I get it, it’s cold and rainy out.
I think that the majority of them want what we all want. A warm bed, hot shower, and somewhere where we can take pride in what we have. Shame causes a lot of problems but has never led to any solutions. If we can afford to have billion dollar corporations pay zero taxes then we can afford to help those who want it. The problem is not lack of money. The problem is lack of compassion.
We have an office on Main Street and have experienced those same things and have often had to intercede in these same matters as well as some harassment by those same folks. We agree with your comments about the tax breaks and the corporate giveaways. Priorities are something each city and its people must decide. Your voice is an important one. Thank you for writing this response and we welcome your involvement in the future!
I know that property rights are an important thing, and that sanitary issues like bathroom waste need to be addressed. These people aren’t really hurting anyone at the moment, though, and that chunk of land has been empty for seemingly forever. Maybe we could campaign the property owner to simply look the other way for awhile. At least until it warms up. It costs nothing.
Joe… we have done that. While it is complicated and there are several owners they City is executing a clean up based on the complaint of a former owner who died a few months back. We are still working on things and it is possible a intermediate process will unfold. Thank you!
It is so very sad to see these people living in the mud garbage and who knows what. But for many of them it is a choice. There way shelters are set up separating husbands and wife’s etc… the mental health issues going in treated they have no trust of outsiders. I have been dealing with a family member for a number of year and they just don’t trust that doctor and society will treat them with any dignity. Out there they form groups that lookout for each other small clans that become family. Most would love to be out of the weather with flushing toilets and running water. Big question is how to deal with the mental health issues? Even though one may have never had problems before living like this you will end up with some mental issues. Just my thoughts and experiences
I agree with you. Once shelter can be established in a safe environment then Trust can be gained and from there growth has a chance – when people are freezing and hungry there is no way to deal with things like mental health or personal responsibility. Some sort of camp area with rules and some governance, water, and bathrooms/showers seem like basic options we need to provide. When that happens we can move ahead as a society. We need to hold ourselves accountable to at least help the weakest among us at some minimal level.
Thank you for reading the Herald and we hope you will continue!