Sheltering in Riparian Areas

Johnson Creek Watershed Council is contacted frequently with concerns about people sheltering in the riparian areas along Johnson Creek.  The Council is not a government agency, and so does not have any authority to resolve these concerns.

We have developed the following statement to let you know our concerns and values about this important and complicated issue.  At the bottom of the page you will find contact information where you can report your concerns.  The choice of who to call will depend on the location you’re concerned about.  Our watershed spans multiple cities and counties.

JCWC’s Statement on sheltering in riparian areas of Johnson Creek

  1. Housing is a human right. We recognize that many people living in our watershed do not have secure housing and as a result, live in tents, many in parks, natural areas, and other places zoned as Open Space. These housing insecure neighbors deserve basic sanitation and disposal services, such as access to clean water, trash services, showers, and toilets in addition to safe housing.
  2. As a science-based organization, Johnson Creek Watershed Council finds it important to look at the varied impacts on a stream’s water quality and wildlife habitat from different types of human activities, using science. We all impact the creek in different ways, regardless of our intent. Some impacts are highly visible, and some are not as apparent. For example, the common act of driving a vehicle causes harm to our streams through chemicals in fragments from brake pads and tires. Some impacts are relatively short-term and/or minor, and some are chronic/long-term and/or severe.
  3. The Portland metro region lacks adequate affordable housing and social services, so sheltering in parks, natural areas, and other areas zoned as Open Space provides some needed respite, security, and water for people experiencing housing insecurity. Greenspaces provide benefits to everyone. Long-term sheltering and/or high densities of recreation in these areas can impact spaces being managed as natural areas, including streamside areas , which can impact native vegetation, wildlife, and water quality.  
  4. Community members have shared concerns about watershed impacts from people experiencing houselessness. The extent of many of these impacts are unmeasured. As a science-based organization, Johnson Creek Watershed Council calls on the governmental agencies with responsibilities for managing these green spaces –including Johnson Creek’s riparian corridor– to conduct studies as needed to understand the level of significance of these impacts, and to guide policies.
  5. We believe that some natural areas are too sensitive for continuous sheltering, and that other areas zoned as Open Space may be suitable for continuous sheltering.
  6. As a place-based nonprofit with a mission of science-based restoration and community engagement, we welcome opportunities to bring the people of our watershed together to discuss important issues. We plan to deepen our participation with community-based organizations that support people currently sheltering outdoors in the Johnson Creek watershed.

October 26, 2022. We plan to update this statement as more data becomes available, and as our understanding of these issues develops.

Agency contacts:


  • Safety and camping concerns: call 3-1-1 or 503-823-4000 or report online to the City’s Homelessness Toolkit One Point of Contact campsite reporting page at toolkit/70039.
  • Follow up questions or updates about campsites can be emailed to
  • The Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program has information on the City’s camping response and One Point of Contact Campsite Reporting System.
  • Report a spill or pollution at Environmental Services Pollution Control Hotline 503-823-7180
  • To schedule an RV pump out for RVs parked along public streets and within Portland city limits, call 503-865-6684.  Environmental Services will come and empty your wastewater holding tank for no charge to prevent pollution to the environment. Call us to schedule a pump out or to find out when the truck will be near your location.



  • General: 
  • Garbage Dumps: call Metro RID Patrol at 503.234.3000
  • City of Milwaukie Police Non-Emergency Dispatch (503) 786-7500
  • Business Office (503) 786-7400, Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.



  • Trash services: on private property, start with talking to the landowner. If a solution cannot be resolved, then go to Code Enforcement, 503-742-4452, We encourage either the complainant or JCWC to work with the landowner first and only report to Code Enforcement as a last resort b/c otherwise they may get fined, which doesn’t make cleanup easy or make for goodwill relationships. Same for tree cutting by a creek.
  • On public property, try Dumpstoppers. See for contacts in various situations (roads, forest land, urban land). OR call/email 503-557-6363,
  • Emergencies/mental health: Clackamas County Crisis & Support Line, Clackamas County Behavioral Health (503) 655-8585.
  • Housing: Try Clackamas County Coordinated Housing Access 503-655-8575,  They have an online intake form that may be faster than calling. They often have a long response time due to high call volume, but website says staff will return calls w/in 3 days and if person(s) pass basic eligibility screening, they will be interviewed to determine what programs will serve them, and added to a Housing Referral List.
  • Camping: contact Clackamas County Sherriff’s Office (503) 655-8211 non-emergency number in unincorporated areas, or local police dept if within a city.

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