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Troutdale City Councilor Alison Caswell reacts to criticism of actions taken to 'clean up' homeless camps at Thousand Acres.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This My View is in response to Wood Village Mayor Scott Harden's commentary regarding a recent clean up at the Thousand Acres natural area on the Sandy River Delta. In that commentary Harden was critical of Troutdale City Councilor Alison Caswell's participation in that activity. Harden's commentary — "Houseless People are Residents; Treat Them Accordingly" — appeared in the Oct. 26 edition of The Outlook and is posted to the Outlook's website.

The truth

CASWELL On Sept. 25, we cleaned up abandoned camps [at Thousand Acres, Sandy River Delta]. We asked homeless people which camps were unoccupied. They directed us on where to go, and a few of them agreed to help.

I'm disappointed Mayor Harden didn't contact me with questions before writing a letter to The Outlook about his concerns. His letter was negligent at best and misleading at worst. It calls into question where he got his information, and why.

There are some things in the letter that are untrue.

• We didn't clean 11 camps, we cleaned two. Both abandoned.

• "The Multnomah County Sheriff responded to investigate and stop the ransacking." Law enforcement called me after the cleanup, but we did not see any officers at Thousand Acres.

Misleading

• No possessions were taken from occupied camps.

• We were not conducting a sweep.

• Mayor Harden said "34 to 44 adults who routinely live there" but I've documented the entire Thousand Acres area and there are 64 major camps and approximately 95 people (including children under the age of 5) living there.

• "Residents of the camp have also formed their own governance structure, which keeps goods secured and the area mostly trash free." There are hundreds of thousands of pounds of garbage in Thousand Acres.

• Mayor Harden says it's "not an impediment to safe recreation," however from our interviews, we have learned there have been attacks, there is lots of crime, active human trafficking and fear. Not to mention there are tons of needles.

Final thoughts

Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness. It is not kind to allow anyone to camp in Thousand Acres; no one will ever get their needs met there. To spread the narrative that this place is a safe community is neglectful.

This is a humanitarian crisis.

Alison Caswell is a member of the Troutdale City Council.


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