The video above was provided by a reader about 3 weeks ago.
There used to be a time when being homeless in Hillsboro, Oregon was unheard of. It has only been this past decade that we have seen it as we travel about in our daily lives here. After the housing crisis from 2007 to 2010, I noticed it beginning to happen. Being a Realtor of 38 years now in Hillsboro I have been particularly sensitive to this issue. There is only one thing worse than not having a home and that is to be starving. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs teaches us that food and shelter, followed by safety, must exist first before any higher human needs or possibilities can be achieved. The past few years have shown us all with open eyes that as a City we are failing, and that as a people we are not doing enough.
Here in Orenco, we see them. Every Winter between 80 and 90 souls make their way about dusk into the Sonrise Baptist Church where a warm bed and a warm meal await them. Every morning they exit and head into the community; most having no set plan of where to go during daylight hours. Not this year though, COVID 19 took care of that.
Beyond that, we know of large camps under the bridge on Baseline where Rock Creek flows West. Another is under the Bridge on Cornelius Pass. Both camps are large but unseen unless one wants to go under for a visit. More less-fortunates seem to be gathering near Lowes and Home Depot on TV Highway as winter sets in. It is not uncommon to see 15 to 20 people panhandling or sitting out in the weather there.
In the old downtown, small gatherings occur on Washington Street on and off all day. At night benches and alleys are increasingly populated. My new friend Jim sleeps every night that he can on a bench along 2nd Street in the US Bank parking lot area. I ask him if he needs help and he always says “No” even rejecting my offers. I did get him to accept 1/2 of a warm turkey and ham on Thanksgiving. He is warming up to me and I honestly want to help in the very real way that food and a kind word can. But I have no answers when he tells me he needs a place to live. I wish I did. Then he mentions Camp Hope.
If you walk the rail lines West of downtown Hillsboro, as many housing challenged do, you will eventually come to our Hillsboro Pioneer cemetery. Walk another 100 yards and you will begin to see a spider’s web of trails and paths heading in both directions. To the North is a private cemetery and a little West of that a golf course. Neither are friendly ground for people like Jim. Head West on the rail and you will find the food plain of Dairy Creek. To the South is open land, Winco, and Dairy Creek Park run by the City. All are hostile territory for Jim and people like him. But stay in the sweet spot from the Cemetery on the East, the railway on the North, Dairy Creek on the West, and TV Highway on the South and you will find it. There you will find the place Jim told me he calls Camp Hope.
Now I am in a unique position because I had this land for sale about 3 years ago for a man named David Sudtell. Zoned for commercial and industrial use the land in question has a checkered past. Sudtell, who according to our sources has now passed on, told me the land had been home to commercial and industrial uses including a gas station, a duplex, a bar called the Hogwaller, and a house of ill-repute dating back to Hillsboro’s Sin City days. He was adamant with me that all of that and more had happened there but that the land was difficult to sell because it has had fill dirt placed all over it by the City back in the 1950s. Much of this was refuted by City staff in the past. Our relationship was short-lived as we could not see eye to eye on the fair market value of the property. Fair to say I know the land because we met several times and walked every inch of it. At that time there were signs of some vagrant camping but no one was staying overnight. The man carried a gun on a holster and tolerated very little.
Since that time anyone driving by on their way back and forth to Cornelius or Forest Grove certainly has seen the activity. About 6 months ago there were 2 or 3 tents on the land in question and a small enclave under shopping carts on the Southside of TV Highway where the abandoned Mexican restaurant and 17th meet. Right after that things changed- within the past few months tents by the dozens started showing up on the former Sudtell property.
Last week dumpsters were brought in and shopping carts heaping with garbage show up daily.
I asked Jim the other night more about Camp Hope- what he calls this place. What he told me was revealing. The word is out, he says, in central and West Hillsboro that the ownership of that land is in a dispute of some sort. Beyond that Jim says that local officials (did not say who) have told people in his community, the homeless, that they need to move off other sites and that perhaps that is a place they can go for now.
“I call it Camp Hope,” says Jim. “We don’t get hassled there, at least not right now. So I go and camp when I need to. A lot of us do.”
Entering this story is my friend Connie. We know each other from our support of High School sports here in town. She saw my FB post about helping my new friend on Thanksgiving eve and wanted to help. When she dropped off 30 goodie bags with gloves, jerky, juice, and other essentials I was not surprised. All she asked was for me to make sure they got to people who needed them. Having just come past the growing camp I knew just where to go. It was time for a visit to Camp Hope.
Catch Part 2 of our Story This Saturday
It was Mahatma Ghandi who said “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
I am hoping the dumpsters get emptied more often and that the camp gets Honey Pot bathrooms. The camp is in terrible condition. Our city needs to provide dignity.
It is a tough one – no on wants to go all in on the problem so it just gets worse and worse. And it is private land- having said that the City could put bathrooms on the other side of the road or on the edge of the cemetery maybe where there are no gravestones
I accompanied a person just released from prison to their first probation officer meeting about 2 years ago. They had been released that very day, and having no money and no home to go to, asked the P.O. where they could go. The P.O. replied that there was no where accepting people, no vouchers for motels, and suggested he sleep at the cemetary. I was floored! We were sitting in a government office in dowtown Hillsboro, and this official charged with supervising a newly released parolee, had no better advice than to say, “It’s illegal to be a vagrant in Hillsboro, but a lot of people sleep at the cemetary and the police don’t bother them there.”
This problem is not new, just getting bigger and bigger with no solution in sight.
I doubt what you are saying. There is a feeling of hopelessness on both sides of this issue- ultimately people are freezing at night and hungry. Unfortunately, it is either NO Tolerance and they have to leave or leave the problem alone and it gets worse. The helpful middle ground is what we need- how we get to it is the trick. At least that is my personal belief. But doing nothing is not an option that humanity should accept.
Hi there, couple things, Sonrise church is not hosting a Severe Weather Shelter this year.
We are doing our best in a crazy time to help friends “shelter in place” without a house to shelter in. Shelters have opened in three different cities, total of 5 shelters between the three, and there is still a waitlist.
Our friends at McKay have been generous to help with the clean up process, so we provided a dumpster weekly. This will end next week.
This article and so many others only made things worse. Because of this article , the public outcry has caused the city and county to have to takes steps to cleaning up this site.
So our homeless community will go back to sites we were able to clear, they will be moving more which means more touchpoints that could spread COVID.
PS- my team and I go all in everyday for these folks. We know them by name, we know their stories. We will continue to fight for their humanity and dignity.
Are you saying that our article informing people that a hundred or more people are living out in the open on that private land is making more people move there? We have heard no concrete plans to clear the site but campers did tell us there were rumors. We did meet with the City after our story to work out plans for a bathroom in that location potentially. On the days we have been there, the people living there informed us that a local agency had already informed them that a sweep was being planned in early January. We have been making inquiries about that – unless it is Washington County we do not know who it is. So our article did not do that.
Is the story of the unhoused only yours to tell? We thought it was theirs to tell and so we are reporting what we were told.
When you say, “So our homeless community will go back to sites we were able to clear, they will be moving more which means more touchpoints that could spread COVID” do you mean that you have been clearing the homeless from those sites to this site? The people at the land we visited said people from the City and other agencies had told them it was ok to live on this land. Do you know who is doing that? We are well aware that the Sonrise and other shelters are closed for the Winter due to COVID.
Where do you all provide shelter? Do you have places people can go? When you are asked from someone on a site you are clearing as to where they should go, what do you tell them?
We have been lobbying for CARES money and other money to be spent locally on shelters or a housing pod/village like Dignity Village in Eugene. You clearly do an incredible job providing services for the unhoused- but shelter has to be at the forefront it seems. What is the plan? Where are they to go? And you say this article was causing the city and county to clean up the site- did you not want it cleaned up?
We understand your passion- just not sure we had all that great of an impact- being homeless or unhoused is not something we feel should be whispered about or hidden. Rather it should be spoken about openly and honestly. The drivers are many that cause this plight. One of the main factors locally is the tax incentives and land giveaways orchestrated by the State, City, County, and Metro to corporations. Those much-touted “high paying jobs” have caused a housing spike of epic proportions and many have lost their home/shelter as a result. It would be reasonable that a small percentage of the success and income generated by those policies could be spent to make sure all of our residents have a place to go. That clearly has not happened. Hillsboro barely even has a line item expense on these issues.
We appreciate all you do, and know that without it that these people- these citizens- would be much the worse off. Stay passionate and let us know if we can report things your organization is doing to help generate attention to that important work!
Thank you so much!
Hello, Dirk…I sent you a Facebook message.
If you could respond whenever you have a second, I’d be grateful.
Yes… of course
How can I help? I’m not very good at turning a wrench but I have organization skills and a healthy back.
So far I have bene told donations of $$ help. But I know that OPEN DOOR West of Hillsboro always needs help with projects that include hands-on- and I believe more options will come forth soon! Watch for more stories!
Did you also do a more recent drone shot of the area, during the last high water event? If so is there a link to that footage? Thanks.
No …that was a lady who posted on Next Door but they took it down. I will try to find a link for that.
Thank you for acknowledging the homeless problem. I have no solutions but appreciate your article.
Society has a history of turning their backs on poverty, and the county appears to be more concerned with the perceived image that things are under control than the reality of the problem.
Thanks Bill… these articles have cost me dearly. I have had personal assaults of various sorts from those in power and those in private. It will not change the outcome of my commitment.
thank you for your needed coverage of this issue. I do not understand why the city will not at the very least provide a couple of dumpsters ….. these people have no choice other than to leave their trash where ever they can, which ends up randomly every where on the ground. These people need help not vilification….
George- I could not agree with you more. I wish I could do more- together we can- maybe.
I would like to make a monthly contribution, (preferably automatic electronic transfer) to help alleviate the homeless situation. I’d appreciate a contact.
This is private property and the city needs to remove these folks from it. Community members are fed up and soon folks will start taking actions on their own. Get these folks on a pathway to get off drugs and off the streets, if they choose not to accept the assistance then its time they get the heck out of our town. I refuse to see this community turn into a mini-portland, which at this point is so destroyed I doubt it will ever be the beautiful city it was when Vera Katz was mayor. Either step up your game Hillsboro, or the public will get someone in office who will properly manage the city. The time for hand holding is over.
What does taking action into their own hands look like, Jarred? I sure understand- we had a person steal some things last night along Main Street and he threatened me personally – what I did and what I could have done were two different things. What would you do?
It looks like the property was cleaned up the last few weeks. What’s the story now?
The City executed trespass against all parties and over time they were able to get them all to move. Some found shelter but the rest disbursed into the community. The problems are not gone but hava father relocated.
I heard that hotels were converting to shelters in Hillsboro. Not a bad idea to convert unused hotels or older hotels into shelters, especially if they are close to other resources. Too bad the old Hanks property in DT Hillsboro was not converted into a multisource housing facility as it was right across the street from the hospital and so many other resources that could help people. That was an ideal location. Check into what DT Boise is doing? They have some great projects in the works: building/converting older buildings in their city center to help the homeless (where the best resources are to help those in need).
Temporary winter shelters do not provide regular housing with all the resources needed to help get people back on their feet. And when these shelters are in a suburban neighborhood, where do all these people go during the night if they cannot be guaranteed a bed (dangerous for their health when it is freezing cold)!? Housing projects would be a much better solution as could offer consistent shelter, healthcare, food, clothes/resources for job interviews, secure learning on the job programs (for trades), and connect people who gain employment with others so they can get their own place (as room mates). We cannot forget about those with mental illness. There should be facilities in which these people can go to get the help they need as can get integrated back into society to lead fulfilling lives. Medical students could have a rotation to shelters to screen for mental illness as well as provide low cost healthcare to residents. The measure to help the area homeless passed which increased property taxes. So where did all that money go for the homeless? How about reducing the tax breaks for the big corporate businesses in Washington County. The city needs to make plans for low rent apartments. How about converting big box stores which have gone out of business into low rent apartments. There are seniors who are struggling too. Units that are set up like quads with a community living area and separate secured bedroom/bathroom, like seen on college campuses, could be a great alternative living option; not only for seniors but for the homeless just getting started in their new job. I lived in one of these quad apartments in Eugene, Oregon. I thought that the strip mall (Kmart) that was across the street from Valley Catholic School (Beaverton) would have been a great, central location for low cost housing. Instead, it was torn down to build high rent units. I put a large portion of the blame on our city officials and state government. There are many other properties that the city/state could have acquired over the years. It feels as if homelessness were an important social issue to solve, they would have done so or at least made better strides. There is some sort of incentive for government officials to perpetuate it?! Greed in getting higher property taxes off of high rent apartments or new business?! And we all need to accept that there is a portion of the homeless who have chosen their path. That is a whole different discussion.
I love all the mixed opinions from everyone who seem to think they know everything about the homeless population.
Our “Homeless Problems” are much more then most people will ever know.
It is also a very layered complicated situation then we will ever know.
There are many types of homeless citizens.
You have the “Outlaws” who are into violence, intimidation, drugs and alcohol and want to control all the panhandling and thefts in their area, or an area they want to take over.
They do not want help because they are more profitable being out of control.
You have the “LowLifes” who like to congregate in an area and turn it into a trash hole for their own personal use.
They do not care about theirs or anyone else’s environment.
They cause a lot of damage to properties and do not care.
They also do not want the help with housing or jobs.
They don’t want to have a boss or a time schedule.
They make more tax free money panhandling then working a job.
They are happy as long as they can buy their drugs and alcohol.
You have the “Shady RV’rs” who find any RV to call home, but do not have them in their names.
This way they can leave them where ever or whenever it suits them.
Most do not have insurance or even current tags.
But they make great hideaways for drug dealing and other illegal activities, as well as a place to hide wanted individuals.
The police cannot enter these RV’s without cause and the tow companies refuse to tow them away, because it is a money losing situation.
You have the “Crazies” who have nowhere to get professional help and are released to the streets all the time.
They have no way to ask for help and they are preyed upon.
You also have the “1%’ers” who are actually honest caring people who are just on hard times and misfortune.
This group are preyed upon and brutalized and taken advantage of.
Some of them have RV’s that may not look new, but are legal, licensed, insured and in good running order.
You do not see them with all kinds of junk stacked on top or tied to the back of it.
They never bother anyone or leave trash anywhere.
Yet the community and the police lump them all
Together and treat them poorly.
They come up with housing for so little of these communities.
The housing help is only for those who do not have an RV or pets or even service animals.
They expect you to give up everything you have, before you can get help.
I know, because I am a homeless 1% RV person.
My wife and I live on Social Security and are disabled.
We do not make enough to afford housing and still be able to live.
We are always belittled by the community and harassed by law enforcement.
Yet we do not retaliate.
My wife and I have been assaulted and our motorhome damaged and the police do nothing.
There is so much more that is unsaid,
But I have rattled on long enough.
I approved your comment because I have experienced some of all of what you said. I think your percentages are off to a wide degree but I want your voice heard. What is your single biggest challenge to having a better life??