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Private security guards hired to clear large homeless encampment known as ‘The Pit’ as Portland outlaws camping in public spaces

Private security guards hired to clear large homeless encampment known as ‘The Pit’ as Portland outlaws camping in public spaces
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A homeless encampment known as ‘The Pit’ in downtown Portland has been cleared out and private security guards are patrolling the area in the latest push to clean up the poverty-stricken metro. 

The tented neighborhood was a longstanding eyesore in the city, where huge crowds of homeless people were set up under the Steel Bridge by the Willamette River. 

But locals praised removal crews and biohazard teams that descended on the site this week, forcibly moving 19 people into a mass-sanctioned campsite in the southeast of the city on Monday. 

‘They finally got their eviction notice, thank God,’ said resident Aaliyah Mays, who told KGW she had been reporting the camp to the city for two and a half years. 

The latest push to clear the area has seemingly stemmed from a fire that broke out in an under-bridge section of the encampment, with contractors working on the burned area hiring private guards to patrol the area and protect their equipment. 

Long rows of tents have plagued the downtown area of Portland for years, infuriating residents and leading to squalid, open-air drug taking 

Drug users smoking fentanyl, a powerful opioid, in the once thriving downtown area of Portland near where ‘The Pit’ encampment is situated

Local resident Aaliyah Mays celebrated the move and said she has been complaining about The Pit for over two years, saying: ‘They finally got their eviction notice, thank God’

‘We are finally getting our neighborhood back,’ added Mays, with the community finally seeing progress after years of enduring Portland’s homeless crisis. 

The Pit has been a persistent problem for the downtown area, where previous efforts to clear the encampment have seen the tents quickly return. 

This dynamic, which has also seen San Francisco residents plagued by the issue, led Mays to temper her expectations over The Pit remaining cleaned up. 

‘It would be naïve of anybody to trust a system that has failed you so many times in the past,’ she added. 

Portland officials say homeless individuals will be given a two-week deadline to move before they sweep the area. 

Large boulders have also been installed under the bridge to stop people having space to put up a tent.  

Multnomah County’s homeless population reached 5,228 last year — a rise of more than 1,200 against 2019

A section of ‘The Pit’ underneath the bridge caught fire earlier in the year, with contractors tasked with clearing the area hiring the security guards patrolling the encampment 

Homeless individuals are given a two-week deadline to clear the area before they will be forcibly removed

The encampment was littered with tents before the latest push to clean the area, with 19 homeless people shifted this week and security guards stationed to ensure they don’t return

Armed security guards roaming the area and forcibly stopping any new tents being erected is also noted by some as a stronger show of force against the homeless crisis than the city has taken in previous years. 

Brandon Schandler, a guard tasked with keeping the area clean, said his role is to ‘enforce’ the camping ban. He said that if a homeless person refuses to leave, he files a report and a city authority unceremoniously moves them away. 

‘They would have a response unit come down here to help remove the individual if they were being defiant and not following the request to leave,’ he said. 

‘The city is doing in my opinion the best that they can, it’s just a very large problem.’ 

Tents line the sidewalk on SW Clay St in Portland, Oregon

An investigation by KGW found that Multnomah County, the Oregon Department of Transportation and the city of Portland all denied paying for the security.

The contractor tasked with the burned-out section of The Pit appeared to be the reason for the security guards, with construction companies often leaving their equipment on site as an industry-norm.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation said the contractor was hired ‘to repair the wall enclosure under the Steel Bridge ramps.’ 

‘It’s common practice for construction contractors to keep materials and equipment at a job site, around the clock, and to hire security personnel to monitor the area to keep their materials secure.

‘That’s what the contractor has done in this case as well.’  



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