More and more people in Portland say they want to end homeless encampments. (WGME)
PORTLAND (WGME) — More people in Portland say they want to end homeless encampments.
Many say they are tired of drug use, crime and the dangerous conditions that accompany them.
One person pushing to end the encampments is a disabled veteran.
He often volunteers to help homeless people in Portland, some of whom are fellow veterans, but after being robbed by some men at an encampment, he says it is no longer safe for the city of Portland to authorize the continuation of these camps.
“I’m a disabled veteran myself and I work very hard,” said Peter Bernaiche, a disabled veteran and theft victim. “I bust my butt and pay my taxes like everyone else.”
Bernaiche usually uses a scooter to get around.
While he was taking his break from his night shift Saturday, he claims a group of armed men from a homeless encampment robbed him.
“I was driving past the camp there,” Bernaiche said. “And somebody waved at me. So I stopped to see what was going on, and he asked me if I had a few dollars. I said, ‘Sure, I don’t mind “and I put my hand in my pocket.”
That’s when he says five men armed with machetes and an ax ran out from behind a tent.
He jumped off the scooter and ran as fast as he could with a bad leg.
“It was insane. They were chasing me every way, trying to hack me,” Bernaiche said. “And I was trying to defend myself while they were chasing me. They were pushing me further and further away from the scooter.”
He saw someone enter the camp on his scooter.
The next day, he went looking for him and said that one of the men who had attacked him had attacked him with a hammer.
Portland police intervened.
“I said, ‘He’s the guy with the machete,'” Bernaiche said. “He’s the one who attacked me the most, and he has the hammer. They see him attack me with a hammer, and they just let him go.”
He says a police officer advised him, for his own safety, not to return.
“He said, ‘They don’t care about going to jail, and you’re probably going to end up getting hurt,'” Bernaiche said.
“Enough is Enough” is a group of Portland citizens and businesspeople who say it’s time to end the encampments and not allow them to continue to grow.
“If the city adopts this policy, the encampments will truly be spread around the city,” Enough spokesman Matt Marks said.
Marks says people are tired of drug use, discarded needles and people having their belongings stolen.
“I really worry about the people who are there, who are not involved in criminal activity. And then we worry about the people who live along these areas,” Marks said. “Yes, we know there have been items stolen, whether it’s bikes, propane tanks, pallets, whatever.”
“Everything you can name that could be stolen was stolen and camped there,” Bernaiche said. “I mean, it’s just stacked to the brim.”
Bernaiche says the scooter is password protected, so no one else can use it.
Police are conducting foot patrols in the encampment and say they are doing their best to try to recover his scooter.
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