Saturday, May 08, 2010

Putting The Problem
To Bed In Portland

A homeless woman sleeps in a bedroll,
beside her shopping cart,
in front of the Bank Of The West
in downtown Portland, Oregon.

The debate about what to do with the growing population of homeless people in Portland, Oregon rages on.

Homeless people have been allowed to sleep on Portland's streets at night...blankets, tarps, pillows, backpacks, dogs, shopping carts and all...for years. And that has turned out to be, in my opinion, a major mistake.

Bedding and luggage are piled on the sidewalk on West Burnside Street in Portland, Oregon

Recently the City of Portland discussed the problem again.

And I sent these comments to The Portland Mercury newspaper:

"I am a 54-year-old woman who has sat and "slept" (if you can call it that) on the sidewalks of West Burnside Street in Portland, Oregon as recently as late February of this year. Yeah, those of you who actually come down that way might have seen me.

I was the older blond woman sitting quietly in front of the red doors of the Downtown Chapel. And I believe that no one should be allowed to sit or sleep on a sidewalk ANYWHERE in the City of Portland.

If the shelters are full and there's nowhere else to go then I believe that Portland should operate a "night-site." That's what is being done in some other cities around the Country.

I know because I hitchhike all over the Country and I've stayed in more than one night-site during my travels. A night-site consists of restrooms, tables, chairs, a water fountain, the occasional sandwich, and security people in a room with lights on all night. There are set hours, rules, no storage and if you leave during the night, you don't get to go back in. Nobody, BTW, gets to loiter for two seconds outside the door, either.

A large segment of the homeless population that hangs around Oldtown/Chinatown just want to lounge for all they're worth. They sit on blankets and make a mess from outside the Portland Rescue Mission all the way down past the Downtown Chapel. They also trash the area by Blanchette House and TPI. Late at night, these same people engage in chemical drug dealing, prostitution, stealing and acts of violence. And none of that activity should be tolerated in the City of Portland.

But as long as the homeless people in that area are allowed to eat free meals, take free showers, obtain clean clothing and raise hell...the cycle is going to continue. I wish that the City of Portland would wise up and suspend all panhandling, loitering on blankets and "sleeping" on the sidewalks there. And open up a night-site."

I believe that it is time for the City of Portland to take an honest look at the entire situation.

Perhaps then no one else will ever look like I did in June 2007 because I didn't have a safe place to stay one night in Portland, Oregon.

The bottom line: The City of Portland, Oregon must stop encouraging what it doesn't want.

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