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Lives of the Houseless Still Bleak

Though the number who are houseless in Portland is rising, the courts, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and various private interests are working to make their lives more miserable.

The Courts: On February 5, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Stephen Bushong decided that Portland's anti-camping ordinance was not unconstitutional, overbroad, cruel or unusual, nor did it hamper the right to travel. However, Bushong did say, "The city's anti-camping ordinance is not the solution to this complex problem. Arresting people who are struggling to survive in the streets just because they have no place else to go is not the answer. We must do better than this" (Portland Mercury, February 11). Judge Bushong sentenced Alexandra Barrett, the woman who challenged the ordinance, to two months in jail as she had been convicted of 17 misdemeanor offenses related to her homelessness. The Deputy District Attorney asked to "send her a message" with a one year sentence (Mercury, March 10).

The PPB: Portland Copwatch (PCW) has talked with many who have no permanent homes and have been told repeatedly about police seizing belongings such as sleeping bags, blankets and medication, even while a person is sleeping. We have also been told that the police stop people they perceive as homeless, asking for their names and IDs. Occasionally, an ID is taken and when the person tries to retrieve it, precinct staffers say they know nothing.

PCW met a man and woman with a three year old son who had been sleeping under the Hawthorne Bridge. A Portland Police officer told them if he found them sleeping there again he would have the child removed. A suggestion of possible resources rather than this approach might have been more humane. Portland area public schools reported that last fall there were 7000 homeless children (Oregonian, March 25).

The City does OK?: The Right 2 Dream Too houseless rest area remains at 4th and Burnside in Portland. Josh Alpert, an aide to Mayor Hales, indicated a possible second site for a rest area near SE 52nd and Woodstock, although this is quite a distance from available social services (Mercury, March 25). City Commissioner Amanda Fritz has proposed that representatives from R2DToo train the Portland Park Rangers in "sensitively talking to the homeless people who use the parks" (Mercury, March 18). While this is a novel concept, it seems sad that it is necessary.

Private Interests: In their ongoing crusade to blame those who are homeless for downturns in profits, the Portland Business Alliance proposed in November that the "high traffic pedestrian traffic zones" in Portland be expanded (PPR #64). In late January, PCW wrote to Commissioner Steve Novick expressing our concerns about the lack of public process and reminding him that the advisory body established with the Sidewalk Management Ordinance (aka Sit/Lie 4.0) stopped meeting or providing statistics in October 2012. We suggested reinstating this body to examine the current state of affairs. Novick staff member Brian Hockaday told PCW the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has done some preliminary work on the issue, and has determined that not all of the areas requested by the PBA fit the City's criteria for the expansion. PBOT is allegedly reaching out to stakeholders and will accept input before taking action on the request. PCW will continue to monitor this issue and urge that the "stakeholders" are those who need to be included in the process.

  People's Police Report

May, 2015
Also in PPR #65

Police Kill Houseless Man
  +1-2 Other Shootings

  5 Years, 111 OR Deadly Force Cases
Pdx Re-Joins Terror Task Force
DOJ Oversight Off to Rocky Start
Review Board Turnover;
  Auditor Exposes "Union" Interference

Other Cities Oversee Shootings
Review Board Report Limits Info
O'Deas of Our Lives 65
Updates PPR 65
  • Body Cams and Copwatching in OR
  • Policy Changes Remain Obscured
New Profiling Data Show Bias
Houseless Lives Still Bleak
Some OR Rights Strengthened
Quick Flashes PPR 65
  • "Senseless" Force on Tasered Teen
  • Police Association in the Media
  • Your Rights and the Police Trainings
Rapping Back #65

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #65 Table of Contents
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