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Portland's Homeless Community: Beset on All Sides

It is difficult enough to not have a place in which to live and keep your belongings, but those who are homeless in Portland suffer additionally by the actions of the City and others who seem to lack humanity. Prior to this spring's Rose Festival, the Portland Police, Clean and Safe and various contractors swept campsites of houseless people and their possessions to "sanitize" the City. Many of those swept up lost their meager belongings and were not able to retrieve them. It is likely that the same thing will be done in advance of the 2016 International Track and Field Championship in Portland next March.

In an amazing display of hypocrisy, the Portland Business Alliance ran full and half page ads in several local newspapers featuring pictures of people sleeping on the street along with the message "We can do better than this." Readers were asked to sign a petition telling Mayor Hales and Portland City Council that "the people of our city want and deserve a better solution." There was a reference to their website (www.pdxcandobetter.com) which indicated the need for more temporary and emergency shelters. "We need to explore additional tools and strategies to provide services to those in need and enforcement for those who decline to play by the rules." It can only be wondered what that enforcement might be. In an op ed, homeless and disability advocate Jeff Woodward disagreed with the position of the PBA and indicated they had no ideas to fund their suggested programs (OregonLive, July 25). He also stated that with understanding and solution-based plans, perhaps the help for our most vulnerable could become a reality. [In response, the comments coming out of his article consisted of such things as busing the homeless to California, the cops knocking them around a little until they got the message that they were not welcome and that if people didn't have the means to support themselves in 120 days they should be euthanized.]

The PBA convinced the Portland Bureau of Transportation to expand the High Traffic Pedestrian Zones (HTPZs) downtown to preclude people from sitting or lying on the sidewalk in those areas. On January 26, PCW contacted Commissioner Steve Novick, who is in charge of that Bureau, and stated this issue must be subject to a public process. We suggested the advisory body regarding the Sidewalk Management Ordinance which was disbanded in October 2012 be reformed and that statistics regarding the enforcement of the Ordinance be once again made public. Commissioner Novick and his staff ignored PCW until we learned on June 10 that eight additional blocks had been added to the HTPZ with little input and none from those most affected by the Zones. Not wishing to stop there, the PBA is still on a quest to expand the Zones further. In his June 10 email to PCW, Novick staffer Bryan Hockaday indicated further meetings were to be held in late June or July and PCW would be invited. That never happened and there is currently no information available to us regarding the issue.

The Right to Dream Too (R2DToo) rest area remains on NW 4th and Burnside, although the issue of their move is very much alive. In July, the City bought land near SE 3rd and Harrison Streets with tentative plans for R2DToo to move there. Although they couched their concerns in somewhat more politically correct terms than their Pearl District counterparts, several neighborhood associations and the Central Eastside Industrial Council weighed in. The Brooklyn Action Corps "had a spirited discussion and concerns ranged from fear of increased crime, reduction in environmental quality and safety issues for campers close to railroad tracks" (The Bee, July 2015). The CEIC wants to make sure "there are protections in place so if things do not work well in the camp there's some ability to say that it's not allowed there" (Portland Mercury, April 29). Southeast Uplift was concerned "that the time honored neighborhood process Portland's built on has been circumvented." (Mercury, July 15). There have also been environmental issues raised concerning the site and further studies may result. In the meantime Grove Hostel Property LLC sued the City on June 25 for $237,373, alleging that because the City failed to move R2DToo out of Old Town, plans to convert the Grove Hotel into a hostel fell apart.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless, especially families with children, rises and there is neither sufficient affordable housing nor enough funds for housing. Sweeping those who are houseless from place to place seems to be the current accepted method for dealing with the crisis. As activist Charles Johnson recently testified before City Council, "It is not an accomplishment when a homeless person moves their belongings from 2nd Avenue to 3rd Avenue."

  People's Police Report

September, 2015
Also in PPR #66

More PPB Shootings by July
  Than All of 2014

  OR Shootings Echo National Epidemic
PRB Report: Misconduct,
  Discipline, Shootings

DOJ Settlement Creaks Forward
Review Board Gains Power
Audit Exposes Training Flaws
Changes in PPB Directives
O'Deas of Our Lives 66
CPRC Nearly Disbanded
  Oregon Bans Profiling
Homeless Beset All Around
Police Attack May Day 2015
OR Restricts Access to Phones
Updates PPR 66
  • OR Body Cams and Copwatching Laws
  • Police Exaggerate "Gang" Problems
Rapping Back #66

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 #66 Table of Contents
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