If you don't have a house, the city might wind up taking your belongings to one of its own.
That picture above is the squat, unkempt home—owned by the Portland Water Bureau—where private security contractors stow the stuff they've confiscated in dozens of campsite sweeps in the last seven months. By law, the city has to keep valuables stored for a period of time before throwing them out, giving people a chance to reclaim their stuff.
It's a weird house, in a weird place—shoved alongside Barbur Boulevard in far Southwest Portland, between an auto mechanic and a garage for water bureau vehicles. And if you're one of the city's homeless, it's probably a long bus ride to pick up the things you hold dear. It's true, and commendable, that the house is right across the road from the Barbur Boulevard Transit Center and its three bus lines (12, 64, 94). But it's also clear across the city from where many campers live.
As we've reported, much of the enforcement has occurred in far-flung East Portland, along the Springwater Corridor. More sweeps have occurred north of Burnside. And while there have been cleanups around Washington Park and the Hoyt Arboretum, a very small percentage of campsites have been pushed from urban Southwest Portland, which is at least sort of close to the pick-up point. Here's a breakdown of campsite cleanups from April to early October, loosely grouped by geographic area.
Still, the storage location is reachable by bus. What's slightly more concerning is that the house has no identifying markings that might help a person know they're in the right place. Earlier this week, I went to have a look at the property, 9748 SW Barbur, and had to circle around twice and eventually ask a guy in an idling water bureau truck before I discovered, yep, that weird blue house with the alarm system warning stickers and blocked-out windows is where the homeless people's stuff is stored. It doesn't look like something a city would own. More important: There's not an address affixed to the house.
This is senseless, and potentially confounding for people who'd like to claim their things. (Here, city, you can spend less than $5 on some proper labeling.) Pacific Patrol Services, the contractor that carries out the campsite sweeps, has a seemingly reasonable solution, though.
As I was checking out the house, two PPS officers rolled up in the pickup truck they use for the cleanups. It's got "Positive Action Cleaning" in big letters on the side. I asked the officers about the lack of an address, or any labeling that would let people know this is where their stuff is. They're not supposed to talk to reporters, but one mentioned that he tells callers to look out for his truck when he sets up an appointment (homeless campers are given a number to call to claim their things, at which point they can set up a time to pick them up). He also mentioned that most people who set up an appointment never show.
Of course, that could be for any number of reasons. It might be because they realize the meeting location is miles and miles away. Or perhaps they arrive early, before the PPS officer's truck, don't see the address they've been told to visit, and leave confused. Or maybe they just never come.
Anyway, if anyone reading this has had their belongings swept up and would like them back, here's the building you're looking for.