PORTLAND, Ore.– Portland’s Hollywood neighborhood is equally as fed up with the city as it is with the crime and trash some homeless folks are leaving behind.
Businesses and volunteers have taken things into their own hands, forming litter patrol groups, and they say it’s working.
Trash is a sign of a bigger problem according to Jessica Murray, who is a resident of Northeast Portland’s Hollywood area.
“I want people to know what’s going on, so more people will want to clean up,” Murray said as she wore her bright orange work vest and walked the sidewalks carrying a bucket and litter grabber Wednesday.
She’d never met her litter picker-up counterpart Lonnie Houston until Thursday. “I’m new in town and this is a good place to meet people,” said Houston.
The two women are part of the Hollywood Boosters Clean and Safe team.
“I live here and I see the trash,” said Murray. “Everyone always says, ‘Oh there’s trash all the time,’ and we just decided that instead of talking about it, we’d do something about it. So we started messaging about it on NextDoor and formed a group.”
The trash is a byproduct of plain carelessness. But also Portland’s homeless crisis. Hollywood has it’s share of tents and panhandlers just like the rest of the city. With it come trash, feces and drugs.
We found an entire folded up cardboard “drug packet” next to the sidewalk on Northeast Sandy and Halsey. Inside were used needles, matches, and rubber tubing to tighten a vein and shoot up. It was things like this that were scaring away customers of The Mountain Shop.
Owner Dave Pietka says they’ve been broken into five times by the same homeless man, who was charged with stealing $70,000 worth of merchandise and allegedly selling it for drugs. Pietka says the man has been arrested multiple times, but gets out of jail quickly due to overcrowding and comes back to the same area.
“We have great compassion and empathy for the lady who’s been displaced because of abuse and the economy or who are mentally ill. We want those people taken care of,” Pietka said. “We think our government needs to do a far better job of that. But the ‘incorrigibles,’ something really needs to be done about them because they truly are making it a mess.”
The Hollywood Boosters wrote an opinion piece about it in the Oregonian this week, that’s been shared almost 5,000 times. They feel they can’t rely on the city, so their litter patrol is a presence that’s been deterring crime. And it could work in other neighborhoods.
“It has made our lives a little bit easier to have Clean and Safe, we need more of it,” Pietka said.
“Maybe they’ll see us picking up their trash and maybe they won’t dump it, hope springs eternal,” laughs Murray.