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Famed Portland goats let loose in protest of homeless sweep

THOMAS BOYD/THE OREGONIAN VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Jason Jimenez and Jess Kurtz load the Belmont goats from SE Belmont and 11th for transport to SE Foster and 91st, in October 2014. A group of renown goats in Portland, Oregon, were temporarily set free in what appeared to be an act of protest against a planned clearing of a nearby encampment of those experiencing homelessness.
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THOMAS BOYD/THE OREGONIAN VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jason Jimenez and Jess Kurtz load the Belmont goats from SE Belmont and 11th for transport to SE Foster and 91st, in October 2014. A group of renown goats in Portland, Oregon, were temporarily set free in what appeared to be an act of protest against a planned clearing of a nearby encampment of those experiencing homelessness.

PORTLAND, Ore. >> A herd of city goats well-known in Portland, Oregon, were temporarily set free Tuesday morning in what appeared to be an act of protest against a planned sweep of a nearby homeless encampment.

The fence of the goats’ enclosure in north Portland was cut, allowing them to get out. The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that the co-owner of the Belmont Goats nonprofit, Robin Casey, found a note rolled up inside the fence.

“In what reality is the comfort of five goats valued over the shelter of more than fifteen people,” the news outlet reported the letter as saying. “So, it’s time for the Belmont Goats to enjoy a little walk in the park.” It was signed by “some anarchists.”

Casey said all the escaped goats have been retrieved and appear to be healthy.

The incident came amid tensions in the neighborhood over city plans to build a tiny home village.

Portland officials announced last year that they had selected the site where the goats currently live, on city-owned land, for tiny home village and affordable housing projects. They agreed to relocate the goats to another area nearby. But the spot where the goats are supposed to be relocated to is home to an encampment where more than a dozen people live.

The city has been providing outreach to the encampment residents for about six months, at least twice a month, said Cody Bowman, spokesperson for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. The residents were offered shelter beds, free rides to a shelter and storage for their belongings, among other services, he said.

“This long-term cleanup effort is to allow for the development of a new safe rest village location,” The Oregonian reported Bowman as saying. “The senseless incident that occurred last night caused damage to private property and posed an immediate threat to the goats who were released. City staff has been in contact with Belmont Goats since early this morning to help the staff bring the goats back to safety.”

The note left in the fence claimed that those living in the encampment were just told to call 211, the human services hotline, for information about shelter resources. Over the past few years, many have reported that calling 211 often fails as a connection to shelter or other resources, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Belmont Goats co-owner Casey said the nonprofit has a good relationship with the people living in the encampment.

“They are our eyes and ears. I’ve had one of the campers call and say they’ve noticed one of our goats was limping. And last summer, there was a fire, and the fire department wasn’t able to respond quickly. But one of the campers had a fire extinguisher and put our fire out,” the news outlet reported Casey as saying.

“We don’t want anybody swept, but we don’t have much control over it,” Casey said. “We want humanity, and we want the people taken care of, and we want people to have some place to go, and we want to advocate for them. We are on their side.”

While there were initial media reports that a goat died after being set free, Casey said the death was not related. An older goat died Monday morning after a long illness, nearly a day before the fence-cutting, Casey said.

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