Church Faces Homeless Drug Camps and Violence as City’s Issues Worsen

As the story of the First Orthodox Presbyterian Church shows, Portland residents are increasingly having to deal with the city’s rise in violence, crime and homelessness without any help from their Democratic leadership.

While Portland is facing a homicide rate that jumped 83% from 2019 to 2020, a homeless population that continues to grow and a police department that has been all but wiped out by budget cuts and resignations, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has zeroed in on gun control as the solution to all his city’s problems.

“We will not stop until we bring peace back to those Portland neighborhoods too often caught in the crossfire,” Wheeler said at a press conference in July.

Meanwhile, as the city’s Democratic leaders continue on their ill-advised quest to crack down on firearm use, residents at Portland’s First Orthodox Presbyterian Church have had to take matters into their own hands.

The church is located directly across from “Portland’s Deadliest Block,” a street where four separate homicides have taken place since last summer. Until recently, the block was also home to a homeless encampment dedicated exclusively to drug use.

Facing a rise in crime during the pandemic, the church was forced to hire private security, install cameras around their building and begin locking their doors during services — something church members say would have been unthinkable only a short time ago.

“Three years ago, we would never even have considered leaving the outside doors locked,” Jamie Bradshaw, a member of the congregation, said.

The church also had to solicit Portland police to clean up a homeless camp for drug use located directly across from their parking lot. While members had initially hoped to help the homeless people who stayed in the camp, they were later advised that the “best thing” they could do was to “get them to leave.”

“They’re not interested in getting help,” the Portland Rescue Mission told the church in an email. “And it’s not safe for you or the community to have a homeless encampment of that nature.”

The church was eventually able to get police to sweep out the homeless camp. While the action has improved their situation to some degree, church members say the steps they’ve taken do nothing to address the underlying problems facing Portland.