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.