Portland/ Community & Society
AI Assisted Icon
Published on January 20, 2024
Portland Homeless Struggle to Recover Belongings After Sweeps by City ContractorSource: City of South Portland Website (Streets and Sidewalks)

Portland's street-cleaning travail continues as homeless residents report significant hurdles reclaiming personal possessions following city sweeps – this time involving a husky-timberwolf service dog and lost livelihoods. Garrett Troupe and his partner Mackenzie, just two figures in the distressed population, recounted experiences of their belongings being swept away by Rapid Response Bio Clean, the city's private contractor for homeless campsite removals. The contractor recently faced lawsuits for improperly disposing of personal items.

In what has become a common refrain, Troupe and Mackenzie assert that Rapid Response, the beleaguered contractor in question, told the couple to move their belongings a couple of blocks away, only to have that assurance quickly invalidated. Troupe, an epileptic, created a poignant image as he described how a seizure set the stage for a sweep of their encampment, culminating in the loss of their personal effects and professional tools – the couple's foothold to reenter stable society. In a statement obtained by Street Roots, Troupe said, "Then they took all of our stuff."

The city's protocol, mandating that items be stored for retrieval post-sweep, seems to only exist on paper, with Rapid Response accruing allegations of mistreatment and misconduct. Complications amplify, as retrieval requires internet access to file complaints – a luxury often unattainable for those on the streets. Accounts from local service providers and an experiment by Street Roots ambassadors underscore the dysfunction, painting a picture of chaos and confusion under Rapid Response's tenure.

Legal recourse has emerged as a makeshift check on these practices, evidenced by Joe Angel's settlement of about $4,700 following Rapid Response's direct routing of his possessions to the dump. Angel decided to take it to trial following a less favorable arbitration hearing, a choice which led to the settlement. In a report by Portland Mercury, Angel’s lawyer, Michael Fuller, known as the "Underdog Lawyer," implied that this outcome suggests Rapid Response was wary of facing trial given the evidence stacked against them.

Emmy award-winning reporter Blair Best, via Twitter, underscored the sentiments of Portland's homeless, many of whom claim that their ability to reclaim possessions is more of an exception than a rule, after they've been swept up by the contractor's operations. According to Blair Best, individuals lament that even essential hygiene items are failing to make it back into their hands after sweeps. Amidst disputes and settlements, concerns persist that transparency and respect for personal property remain unsettled in Portland's streets.