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Homeless camps on state highways and interstates will be swept by Portland cleaners in 2019.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - A homeless outpost rests near Oregon Department of Transportation land in the Central Eastside of Portland in 2018.A new clean-up contract will task Portland — not the state department of transportation — with sweeping up homeless camps built on the grassy slopes of bustling freeways or nestled among the trees of pedal and pedestrian paths.

The Oregon Department of Transportation will hand the reins to city cleaners at the start of the New Year, with a six-month-long phase-in that will gradually place interstates 405, 205, 84 and 5 under city jurisdiction, as well as several state highways.

"Our ODOT team looks forward to working with the city on providing a smooth transition period," said Ted Miller, a maintenance and operations manager for the state agency.

Officials say the interlocking layers of turf have long proved perplexing to locals, who deluged City Hall and police with complaints that only state authorities could answer. Others chafed at ODOT's clean-up style, which followed a set schedule and didn't include connecting campers with resources.

Terms of the intergovernmental agreement approved Wednesday, Dec. 19 by the City Council include:

• City workers will post notices at camps warning of a clean-up within the next 48 hours to 10 days. ODOT previously used a 10 to 19 day timeframe, while the city's old warning stretched for a week.

• By the end of the phase-in process, Portland will be responsible for cleaning up camps on the I-405 corridor, I-205 corridor and multi-use path, Southeast 82nd Avenue, westbound Highway 26, I-84, Highway 30, Highway 99-E/Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard and I-5.

• Those wishing to report homeless camps within the city's service area should use the form at portlandoregon.gov/campsites, by visiting pdxreporter.org or by calling 503-823-4000.

ODOT will reimburse the city for removing "personal property and trash associated with homeless camps" by an amount not to exceed $2 million yearly, according to the Mayor's office. The Oregon Legislature passed a bill in 2018 that allowed the two parties to work together.

"We will continue to work with the city to ensure this partnership leads to improved coordination," said Miller, "a higher level of consistency and improved livability for the community and our houseless individuals in need."

Critics often claim that homeless encampments near homes, schools and parks aren't cleared quickly, especially in East Portland. Advocates for the unhoused argue that sweeps only push the problem around when there simply isn't enough shelter space to bridge the gap.


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