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The City of Portland, Oregon

Auditor Mary Hull Caballero

Promoting open and accountable government

Communication and data needed to manage homeless camp cleanups

 

The City should ensure its program to address public safety and health effects of homeless camps communicates better with people living in the camps and those making complaints about the camps. It should also improve its data systems, according to an audit released March 20, 2019.

The Homelessness/Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program addresses some issues related to people living in tents and other makeshift shelters on City property. The program takes complaints, assesses campsite conditions, and removes trash, but its cleanups sometimes displace people from camp sites.

The program has had some success. Cleanups have improved living conditions for some people in camps, and the program has made it easier for the public to report camps. However, demand for services has pushed the program past its capacity. The program needs a comprehensive data system to enable complaint tracking, status updates, risk assessments, and cleanup prioritization. The program should also ensure property it takes from people experiencing homelessness is protected when it is in the City’s possession.

The audit recommends improving the program’s public information, data, and internal policies. Responses from Mayor Wheeler and the Office of Management and Finance are included in the report.

-- Kristine Adams-Wannberg, Senior Management Auditor