“Commenters on BikePortland used this incident as an excuse to take potshots at our unhoused neighbors.”
— Callie Riley
This was written by Callie Riley, an east Portland resident and longtime community organizer. He wrote this to me via email and gave me permission to post it as an opinion. — Jonathan
I’ve been reading the site since 2007. I’m writing as an East Portland resident, as a cyclist, and as someone who lives near several tent camps along I-205.
When the story on the I-205 “booby trap” was published, I was disturbed – but not surprised, to be honest – to see BikePortland commenters immediately blame houseless campers for this assault.
Literally the first comment on the post linked the two:
One commenter called for mass arrests of the unhoused so that they may be used as slave labor (per Oregon Measure 17) to clean up camps:
Another spread a rumor that the three assailants were unhoused, parroting what I presume is the Montavilla Initiative, a group of individuals in that neighborhood (where I used to reside) who blame every one of Montavilla’s problems on the unhoused:
Another commenter lightly echoes Trumpian rhetoric, arguing that we should “mak[e our] bike path useable again”:
Unfortunately, I could go on at length. Almost uniformly, commenters on BikePortland used this incident as an excuse to take potshots at our unhoused neighbors, which is common in just about any story mentioning 205, camps, or our houseless neighbors. The rhetoric borders on violent. And if you’d only read BikePortland, you’d come away with the clear conclusion that this was a case of unhoused individuals attacking a cyclist at random.
And then I read the Oregonian’s update about the assault this morning. What jumped out at me was the following:
The three assailants in this case were apparently attempting to harass unhoused campers. That suggests that Carlene Ostedgaard’s assault was a direct result of the same animus toward the unhoused that of your commenters share. It’s doubly disturbing, then, that BikePortland commenters chose to slander unhoused campers when they were the intended victims of this crime, and that there was precious little pushback to that narrative. You yourself have written many times about the ways in which violent rhetoric toward vulnerable road users can manifest in violent and unsafe behavior toward us, and I ask that you apply that same analysis to what your commenters are saying about the houseless.
I ask that you publish an update to that story, and perhaps use that update to reflect on why BikePortland is such a hotbed for aggressive rhetoric toward our unhoused neighbors; you could talk to folks like Street Roots, Right 2 Dream Too, or Dignity Village to get their impressions. If you’re unwilling or unable to do so, I ask that you print this email in full as an op-ed to BikePortland, as a counterpoint toward your commenters’ violent attitudes toward some of the most marginalized Portlanders.
Cheers and solidarity,
UPDATE, 5:34 pm: I have blurred out the names of the commenters. Also, I want everyone to know that my intent in posting this was to show the community how the comments on the previous post were being heard by some people. I realize that some readers don’t appreciate that I’ve elevated Mr. Riley’s comments to the Front Page in this manner.
Please understand this is an extremely difficult topic to moderate (especially in 2018). I’m trying to move the conversation forward and I regret if this post set things back. I believe we need to be able to hear different perspectives and that more conversation is always better. Thank you. — Jonathan
UPDATE: Don’t miss our latest story on the incident where I’ve reported an update from the DA’s office:
“When asked why they had put the string across the pathway… said they wanted to harass the transients in the area. Officer Miller spoke to suspects who said they wanted to “fuck with the homeless“ because “we don’t want them around here.”
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Guest opinions do not necessarily reflect the position of BikePortland. Our goal is to amplify community voices. If you have something to share and want us to share it on our platform, contact Publisher & Editor Jonathan Maus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the one hand, I understand and sympathize with the city’s problem with homelessness, and that we don’t have any adequate solution presently to the sheer volume of folks out there without a roof over their head for the various reasons they’re there.
At the same time, I think it is /entirely/ reasonable for folks in general, and Portland cyclists in particular to continue to insist that public parks and thoroughfares are NOT suitable places ever for homeless people to encamp themselves.
The DC Metro area also has a huge homeless problem, has had skyrocketing EXORBITANT housing prices (one of the reasons we left) but at the same time you can ride down the W&OD bike path for 30 miles and there’s not a single tent, and nobody on the trail except those using it to run & ride. Having just gone there for business and bike-commuting all week on the W&OD, it was painful to see that this is what the Springwater SHOULD be and COULD be.
I miss the W&OD trail! It was so nice to ride.
Maybe if they were better “neighbors”…
I don’t appreciate your use of air quotes around the word “neighbors”. Regardless of how you feel about people who live outside, they are our neighbors. They are human beings who deserve respect.
A person was lucky she was not killed…
What if they used actual wire..
This site has jumped the shark. These are criminals, pure and simple.
I could care less whether they were houseless or not and all the evidence suggests they were and are houseless criminal campers.
BP spends all its time writing about infrastructure spending of cyclists while one of the biggest deterrent to cycling are criminals that inhabit the bike paths all over town.
Why the excuses here? What reason?
This isn’t just about the men who are suspected of a crime (and if it were, in my opinion even people who commit crimes deserve respect). This is about how the words we use to describe people can lead to harmful narratives and can influence how people treat each other. This is also about not jumping to conclusions when we don’t have all the facts about a case.
I absolutely agree that the situation on these paths is unacceptable and that we need to do something about it. But we need to make sure that the discussion about how to deal with it happens in a way that maintains dignity and respect for everyone involved.
I believe it’s possible to be very concerned about the cycling conditions AND to have sympathy and compassion for people living along the path.
And sympathy and compassion for the people who are impacted by the homeless.
Absolutely Middle of the Road Guy,
Having sympathy and compassion for one group of people does not mean I can’t have sympathy and compassion for another group of people.
And if you are insinuating that I lack sympathy and compassion for people impacted by conditions on the 205 path, you don’t know me very well.
This is an extremely fraught topic and — as you can see in this comment thread — it’s nearly impossible for me to oversee/moderate the conversation without people getting mad at me or each other.
I have thought long and hard about this issue and I’m trying to move the discussion forward as best I can. You are not aware of the many emails with readers I’ve exchanged on this very topic.
Thanks for your patience and understanding as we try to come together as a community to discuss productive ways to make Portland better for everyone. Thanks.
I did not insinuate that at all – and apologies if it came across that way.
My comment was more around the observation that, in knee-jerk reactions to defend the less fortunate, people often forget that there are more than one victim in these situations. Even if a less fortunate person commits a crime, there is still a victim of that crime.
For whatever reasons, their hardship is frequently dismissed because it is not politically correct to assign fault to the actual criminal in this case – even if they are a less fortunate individual.
The only time I have ever met you was once at Fred Meyer…and another time a wave on the bike on Rosa Parks.
The intended target of these sadistic a-holes were houseless folk living near the trail. Do you have even a shred of empathy?
Did you see the documents? Using the Oregonian for your info?
And don’t accuse me or others of not having empathy, I am not sure how you get away with that here because you do it constantly.
I have empathy for people living outdoors and I have empathy for people who afraid to ride these paths.
Most women will not ride alone on them. Where is your empathy?
That could also be interpreted as people who live (in houses/apartments) near the trail. It’s kind of ambiguously written.
Agree – it’s not clear to me which set of residents along the trail are being referenced.
Maus’ recent update suggests otherwise:
IMO, this is a clear case of violence directed at people camping ALONG the trail. It also beggars belief that someone living Vancouver WA has so much collective animus towards housed people living some distance from the trail as to commit this violent crime on the MUP itself.
Seems like we need to perform sweeps on all incoming Vancouver traffic to screen for criminal elements. An older man jogging in my neighborhood was run down and killed by a DUI Vancouver driver a few years back.
I’d say it’s hardly clear at all. One, either you trimmed the original paragraph to fit your narrative or it was updated after you quoted it, because one of the three doesn’t have a permanent residence. Two, it’s entirely possible for someone to both have a reported residence AND camp somewhere. Three, it just as much beggars belief that someone living in Vancouver WA, someone living elsewhere in Portland, and someone living out of a van all had enough “collective animus” toward the campers there that they made this effort to harass them (and futilely, since they missed their target).
None of us have much information on this beyond what’s been heavily summarized in the news, but my guess is that the real motivation here was primarily sadism, and they probably didn’t care who the target was.
Jonathan: I don’t appreciate your implication that because I disagree with someone’s behavior, or actions, that automatically means I don’t respect them as human beings. Predicating respect for the person on agreement with their actions or views is part of what’s wrong with our country today.
I hear you. Sorry. I’ll be more careful about that next time.
In your defense Jonathan, rainbike left the comment up for interpretation. The implication of the comment was that until they are better “neighbors” they do not deserve to be treated like human beings.
i realize that electronic communication is very imperfect.
i hope everyone else stops and thinks about that. Please assume the best intentions of your fellow commenters and give people the benefit of the doubt. And remember the Golden Rule of Commenting: Treat others like you’d want to be treated and only write things you’d feel comfortable saying to their face if you met them at a bike shop or bikeportland event.
Jonathan: Please understand that I’m not baiting you, but the reaction here is not surprising, given that you did open this piece with a charge of bigotry against a number of your readers. I’ll admit, that charge immediately got me on the defensive and flavored my comment.
I appreciate bikeninja’s recharacterization of this feeling as not bigotry, but extreme human frustration with a complex humanitarian and active transportation problem. I’d add to this, as others have, a very real fear for personal safety and property. Personally, I wouldn’t call this feeling bigotry, but others may have a different threshold for when they think that word is appropriate.
In print, they’re just quotes, not air quotes. (Either that or my air drumming just took on a whole new virtual reality.)
Anywhoo, I think of a neighbor as someone who not only lives near you but has some interests in common with you. (Because mutual location itself tends to result naturally in areas for mutual interest.) If flying purple people eaters eat me outside my house, my neighbors have an inherent interest in that: “Will we be next?” Or for a more mundane example, if the frost comes early and my harvest is ruined, my neighbor’s will be as well. So we’ll both vote for whoever runs for office in town who thinks we should get emergency aid or whatever.
We also both have an interest in keeping the peace between us. If my neighbor punches me, I’ll punch him. Where’s he gonna go? I know where he lives and can see it from my kitchen.
But all of that goes right out the window, when breaking out of the bond of mutual interest is as easy as collapsing your tent and moving on. Homeless guy is like, your harvest failed? Good luck with that. Homeless guy punches you, good luck finding him. Flying purple people eaters, well, those would presumably go for the easy prey sleeping outdoors, so this time it’s the guy in the house saying good luck with that.
If you don’t invest anything (including by having nothing to invest), you are inherently less interested and less of a neighbor. You’ll have less interest in an area where you rent property, than in one where you own some. And you’ll have even less interest in an area where you do neither. It’s almost a tautology… investment is interest. The unfair and unfortunate part of course, is that it really has nothing to do with what kind of human being you are. It has to do with (like most things in America now) economics and class. To get the permanent “neighbor” status you have to spend a fairly insane amount of money.
That’s funny my neighbors don’t throw things at me, menace me, and yell at me to “GET THE F*CK OUT OF HERE” as I ride by on my bike. That’s what I’ve experienced on the Springwater.
I’m done with those paths. I’ll take my chances with bike lanes elsewhere.
Really because mine do, and they do it with cars. It doesn’t matter if someone with a house is threatening me with their bmw or if someone with no house is threatening me with a knife. I’m going to have a problem with it – virtue signaling in the name of misplaced compassion be damned.
Yup. “Neighbor” has a very positive connotation. Until there’s a single word for “criminal who is temporarily, illegally camped on public property that I would like to use, but no longer can”, I think quoting “neighbor” is fine.
Yes, words are fun. In the physical world, where do you suggest that “criminal” should go?
Ah, so before I can have safe public spaces, I need to completely solve the homeless problem?
Not at all. None of us have a clear plan for a solution. My question was not rhetorical. It reflected my assumption that people want to explore the potential outcomes of our words and proposed actions. Maybe this is not the case with you. It was a genuine question asked out of interest, but I see it thrown back at me, so I guess I’ll catch it and walk away.
It’s important for us to separate the true criminals who are hiding under cover of other homeless folks, and probably most often preying and harming the homeless. If Portland could stop wringing it’s hands over the crises of homelessness, and figure out a way to bring some targeted help and support to the law-abiding homeless folks in these situations, and root out the criminals, we could move forward. Empowerment of tools and support for basic human dignity would go a long way to helping homeless camps self-police (with support) and work to maintain their own areas to be clean, safe, and free of criminal elements (with targeted support). Instead, we group the bad in with the good, and look away, and fret. It’s crazy to me that one of the safest, cleanest, and model homeless camps (Hazelnut grove) in the city is getting uprooted and moved out of town, meanwhile, the criminal drug den homeless camps just keep floating around in/out of homeless areas.
Agree with this comment. I use Springwater and I205 path often and have often thought that if people were just camping on path, although not desirable would be way less objectionable that dumping garbage everywhere, going to bathroom on and near the path, putting items in the middle of the path, hanging out in the middle of the path in an intimidating way (to some at least), and other activities that impact travelers in a highly negative way.
I’m a large male and I get nervous on the 205 path although I’ve rarely had an issue they aren’t unheard of. I can imagine others feel more nervous than me. And besides the safety thing, it just bums me out to see this awesome asset trashed all the time.
It’s not the people it’s what some of them do.
It’s a complicated issue.
I agree that sadistic bigots who attack houseless folk on the I-205 trail are among the worst kind of neighbor. However, I also feel that people who spew anti-houseless person hate on a post lamenting violence directed at houseless folk are also among the worst kind of neighbors.
So it only matter who it was directed at, not who it actually injured?
Not cool to erase the context of what I was talking about, someone set up a trip wire across the 205 bikepath, and I said the bikepath should be made useable. I wasn’t even thinking about homeless people when I wrote that but if you want to be intellectually dishonest in order to claim a moral highground, then by all means
Just another “community organizer” taking statements out of context.
You joined the chorus of individuals who, without any evidence, assumed that “homeless people” were responsible. And now that it’s clear that houseless folk were the intended target you show little interest in apologizing for your bigoted stereotyping.
No he didn’t. He suggested making the path usable for more people again. That comment section was littered with stories of people who have recently had bad experiences on the paths and now don’t ride them anymore.
This commentator specifically referred to “homeless people” in their comment as did many others. It’s this assumption that is being called out.
Yes, Wylie did use that phrase…
“Making the 205 path safe for riding doesn’t mean exterminate homeless people.”
I prefer the term “bicycle collector and camping enthusiast” instead of “homeless”
Your comments don’t usually make me laugh, but this comment sure did. 🙂
It’s really unfortunate you came to the conclusion, especially because I was specifically saying this wasn’t about getting the path rid of homeless people, I’m honestly open to all sorts of solutions, but it would seem we are getting stuck in the mud about bigoted rhetoric that isn’t actually happening
Well said, Wylie!
As a lifelong skateboarder and cyclist one thing I’d have to say is that public facilities that are not seen as adding to commerce, are largely placed on the periphery and in places that do not have foreseeable value. These are often also the last refuge for houseless people. Basically affordable housing leveraged in it’s most common form was basically ILLEGAL until the March of 2016 when Oregon Senate Bill 1533 passed allowing for inclusionary zoning. By mid-2016 the majority of large-scale venture and private equity backed housing had been submitted for permitting. Oregon Senate Bill 1533 was allowed to pass because developers (the primary constituent in most municipalities) had already cashed in on below-market assets and took advantage of desperate local governments hungry for new tax revenue.
What this mean for us the cycling community:
1. Until society as whole correlates cycling infrastructure with improved efficiency for commerce, we will continue to have pushback to cycling infrastructure in areas that are not deemed peripheral. (See SE 28th Ave bike-way opposition, or that fact that bike lanes continuing from any of the bridges into downtown, stop within 3 blocks of the river)
2. As cyclists we will continue to inhabit the same spaces as housesless people for a long time and we must explain to others how prevalent houselessness is to others. Most of society does not see the scale of the issue if they only come across a few homeless people downtown on their lunch break or a weekend trip where they get back in their car and drive back to their suburban neighborhood.
3. If we want our facilities to become improved, we must become not only reporters of the houseless situation to others, but advocates for changes to minimum wage laws, changes to laws regarding job discrimination based on criminal records, and the provision of public healthcare (#1 cause for bankruptcy is health-related bills).
We are part of the periphery. The most effective way to change that is to pull others out of the periphery and unite the voices of “the outsiders,” not create a further division. Show kindness, show empathy and realize we are in this together.
4. Expect cycling rates to decline in Portland, particularly among more vulnerable populations (children, women, minorities).
I’m sorry but I can’t take what Mr. Riley is saying seriously because he is taking perfectly rational comments and twisting them into something else.
“make bike path useable again” is not “Trumpian”. Its a statement that the path is less useful when half of it is being used for non-transport purposes. Trump does not have a monopoly on sentences ending with “again.”
And this one:
“One commenter called for mass arrests of the unhoused so that they may be used as slave labor ”
Mr. Riley needs to slow down and re-read the comment he is quoting because he certainly didn’t read it properly the first time.
It’s so unfortunate when progressive allies decide to start shooting inside the tent when we have so much common ground to be found. I am sure both Andrew and I are supporters of measures that would do so much for homeless populations; things like Guaranteed Minimum Income and encouraging support services to drop sobriety requirements. Why do we have to try so hard to burn bridges rather than build them
It really is a shame because people who ride bikes have up close encounters with poverty that people who only drive do not get. In my experience people who ride bikes everyday in the city have more empathy for people living on the street. Those people living on the street would rather not be sleeping on bike paths either.
This entire debate fuels a narrative that debases the public good.
Anyone should be able to recreate in a public park, at any time. Anyone should be able to move safely and freely through a public space, and enjoy the experience. At any time.
No one should have to live in public recreation space, or do their intimate daily activities (cooking, bathing, defecating) there. I try always to imagine if *I* had to do so. If it feels unsafe to ride my bike through somewhere for ten minutes, imagine having to *live* there.
That we consider public spaces to be the last available spaces for *some* people, is a failure of our collective imagination about what “public” means. It conflates “public” with a host of negative connotations: dangerous, dirty, abused, last resort. Those of us with the means to do so will gradually move away from “public” spaces into private ones. Private schools, private streets, private athletic clubs, private automobiles, private campgrounds, private housing. Then let the miserable poors have the shabby public stuff, amirite?
I challenge us to imagine a Portland with ample public goods. Where *even those with the means to do otherwise* choose public schools, public streets, public hangouts, public transit, public parks. Including public housing.
Noted. Thanks John. Will post one next week.
I think City Council should take an unannounced group ride down the 205 bike path to see what all the concern is about. It will be an eye opener outside of their little bubble.
The city/DOT have rousted the houseless people from the path multiple times. But the people return because, presumably, they have no place to go.
I’d argue it’s because they have nowhere *better* to go. Part of the reason we have tent camps in parks and along bike facilities is that these are the nicest places to live if you’re living in a tent in the city.
I love the idea of getting people in power exposed to the reality of what’s happening on the ground. Often, they simply have no idea and once they see it they act appropriately.
A couple of months ago, a middle-aged female neighbor of mine took Eugene’s city manager on a little tour of our neighborhood. She took him down what we call “Satan’s Alley”, a little-used unpaved alleyway adjacent to the train tracks. Having to carefully step between piles of human feces while conversing with my neighbor (she put on a dress and high heels for the occasion, which made for an interesting look as she tip-toed through the tulips) did focus the city manager’s attention.
Within a week we had a porta-potty placed behind a nearby grocery store ( the owners of the store were pleased because they had hired someone to deal with the feces), complete with sharps containers inside and trash cans outside. After three weeks of success, we got two more placed and two long-closed bathrooms (actual indoor plumbing!) opened. Two more are due within the next two weeks.
To the surprise of none of us, no one is trashing the facilities and the level of complaints about “homeless behavior problems” in the neighborhood have almost vanished. If we can give people just a wee bit of dignity, like a civilized place to defecate, they will respond by being better members of our communities. Imagine what would happen if we supplied actual housing and treatment (drug and mental health issues abound).
Thanks for your post/email, Andrew.
Houseless folk are our neighbors and access to decent housing is a basic human right.
The problem with asserting such “positive” rights is that it obligates someone (who?) to address them. And what obligations does the individual have to conform to the obligations of living in housing? And what if they don’t meet those obligations? Do they forfeit their rights? If so, are they really rights?
You address a point many liberals avoid – if something is a right, who provides the services?
And what if the right of one individual conflicts with the rights of another? E.g., is a Catholic doctor obligated to provide an abortion? Is the government obligated to provide housing for anyone who wants it (it’s a human right!).
This issue comes up frequently when I have a debate with a good buddy of mine, who is a Libertarian. I tend to argue that while I don’t think certain things are Rights, they are good public policy – such as Universal Healthcare.
I think what Andrew is confusing with bigotry is extreme human frustration. The reason this frustration is apparent on bike Portland is that these camps overlap the cities bikeways. Motorists just drive along and see them, but you don’t find a camp taking over half of I405. Even if the campers are 100% victims of housing policy, tax policy, financialization of housing assets, etc. it is only human nature to become frustrated with the side effects of people camping along most of the public byways in the city. Yes this is probably unfair but with no resolution in site, and little the average person feels they can do to improve things it is inevitable that frustration and animosity will build in even the most progressive elements of the community. It Barney the Purple Dinosaur live next to Mr. Rogers and every day he came over and defecated in Mr Rogers yard ,eventually Fred would lose his temper and at least yell at his brightly colored neighbor.
I finally agree with something you say.
But that frustration need not devolve into undifferentiated (and possibly misplaced) anger at what we might agree is a large and diverse group of vulnerable people with whom we currently share this city. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard, act a little more like the light on the hill we sometimes think of the US to be.
>>> It Barney the Purple Dinosaur live next to Mr. Rogers and every day he came over and defecated in Mr Rogers yard ,eventually Fred would lose his temper and at least yell at his brightly colored neighbor. <<<
I feel you… I think I got some of that bad acid too.
Not the Mr. Rogers I remember. He would help Barney get a proper bathroom with compassion and understanding. Are we willing to do that for our own Barneys?
We can’t seem to get our arms around the extent of services we want to/are able to provide. Where are the reasonable limits? All of this comes from tax dollars, so if we advocate for more aid, we better be personally willing to work the overtime hours necessary to generate the tax revenue.
Many comments so far in response to this article only re-iterate what the article is speaking against.
I understand that people are afraid to use these paths. That is a reasonable response to a terrible situation. I don’t belittle or make light of anyone’s fear. There are some people living there who are intimidating. But it is a ridiculous oversimplification to just think there are “bad people” who need to be moved.
I am amazed and horrified at some peoples’ sweeping vilification of people living outside, and constant calls for police to arrest and/or sweep people. Sweeps and arrests do not help either the housed or the unhoused. They are just kicking the can down the line. Unhoused people are human beings. Under our current system, they are going to physically exist somewhere, whether that’s the 205 path, someone else’s neighborhood that you don’t have to see, or prison and then the street again. None of those things are a solution. And policing and criminalization are hugely expensive, whilst almost ensuring that the people criminalized will not be integrated back into society.
Any serious attempt to address homelessness has to address the causes. It will take time and be frustrating and cost money (though less than criminalization/social breakdown) and political capital. It will have to address addiction, mental health, economic disparity, domestic violence and more. I know people will throw up their hands and say that we have already tried this, or it is too expensive. But we really haven’t been trying. Business interests are dead against it. Local politicians voice concern when they think they need to, and throw a few programs and dollars around, but there is no real effort to upend a system that benefits their wealthy political constituency at the expense of all these others.
In the meantime, I may be sad that I’m not comfortable cycling on the 205 path, and there may be situations in which I’d call the police. But in general I’m don’t want to call in the police to kick those who are already down. As noted, parks and bike paths are low priority for business & government. As long as this is the case, and as long as there are destitute people, we will be alongside one another in these spaces.
I do work towards solutions that can actually create change. I do this unconditionally, not expecting that those experiencing addiction and mental health crises will be nice to me when I bump into them out on the trail. I do not do this to get a cookie here on the internet. I do this because this is being a good neighbor, and I want to live in a place with good neighbors.
Thank you, Jim.
I’ve been trying to say some of those things here on bikeportland comments for years (but not as articulately as you have). It is a long row to hoe.
In summary: you don’t get safe MUPs until you solve the homeless (drug) crisis.
I would say ‘unstable’ rather than ‘bad,’ and I think that is the concern most people are voicing. Unstable people need to be diluted by a lot of stable people if you’re going to have a livable society. In homeless camps, there is a very high concentration of unstable people. If you weren’t unstable when you started living on the street, there are plenty of studies showing you get that way before long. Just not having a safe place to sleep, contributing to chronic sleep deprivation, does a number on people.
I’m not blaming homeless people for being unstable, but having grown up with unstable people (and drug addicts), I can say pretty confidently you have to set boundaries.
Think of this in microcosm. If you had a sister whose life had spun out due to meth addiction living in your house rent-free, would you let her do whatever she wants, no ground rules, and get mad at your family when they complain about the resulting chaos, and how unlivable your home gets? Would your only solution be to just let her keep doing what she’s doing because she has nowhere else to go?
In this case, as bad as it makes us feel, we should stop excusing the camping. Yes, it will keep happening, but it will gradually happen less if people stop assuaging their own guilt by publicly defending the behavior and going around delivering pizzas and furniture to homeless camps. We’ve always had a lot of homeless people here–relative lack of tolerance was pretty much the only thing standing in the way of us having this problem earlier (camping in high-traffic public spaces as a major thing dates more or less to Occupy).
We have more to consider here than just the homeless. Nathan, who commented above, is right. The cruddier we let our public spaces become, the more people will consider them sacrifice zones. Like it or not, a high concentration of unstable, desperate people makes a place unlivable. People don’t live in places that are unlivable if they have a choice, which means the place just gets more unlivable.
Realistically, the homeless problem needs a federal solution. Homelessness is down in the rest of the country but up in temperate areas (here, LA, Seattle, Hawaii). This is not a problem Portland can solve on its own, and I don’t see the Trump Administration tackling it anytime soon. Refusing to do anything at all to address safety, public health and livability issues until homelessness is solved is not fair to the rest of us.
Well said, K. I’d also point out that there are other options, besides camping. It’s not simply a case of “nowhere else to go”–it’s a choice, in most cases. So what you get is a preponderance of men camping in public spaces, despite the fact that it’s women and children who are #1 in poverty. And the men choosing to camp are eschewing shelters etc. because they don’t like the rules. Most want to be free to do drugs/have dogs/have furniture, which is a relatively new thing. And while I may sympathize, we really do have to understand (re: the scofflaws and those who present a danger to others) actions and consequences and stop with the conspicuous compassion wars and the idea that we can somehow LOVE everyone to wholeness and beyond asocial behaviors, instantly. There have to be consequences for horrible actions. I agree with K that our active enabling of the camping option is disastrous for all, in the long run, and only encourages a further deterioration of City parks and trails.
And I disagree with the letter-writer’s premise that this is about bikeportlanders hating on the homeless. It’s about bikeportlanders at the end of their rope with criminal behavior, and–like it or not–much of that is coming from addicts/folks (men) camping in Portland. Go ask the people of Lents. The low-income, many-on-the-verge of homelessness themselves people of Lents, whose lives have been completely upended by the campers. It’s incredibly frustrating to have such reasonable concerns colored as “lack of compassion” and “hatred of the houseless” over and over again. It kills any discussion and it reeks of self satisfaction.
It’s a form of “compassion shaming”.
comment of the week!
Noted maxD. Thanks. So many good comments this week! I will post one next week.
Ktaylor – I agree with much of what you write, until you get the the sister analogy. I don’t think anyone is advocating doing nothing. You present false binary choices. I wouldn’t want to turn my sister over to police that have a history of violence towards people like her. I would look for other courses of action. I have lived with unstable people, and police/psych holds are not often a helpful option. They are easier for us bystanders, and I understand that people are worn out, but let’s not pretend they are a solution instead of just a break for us.
Lack of tolerance is not what explains lower levels of homelessess in the past. Addiction rates, eviction rates, cost of living, family breakdown, these things affect homelessness rates. Tolerance or not just describes what we do once people are already homeless. So many comments seem to think that these people will just disappear if we “don’t tolerate them”.
Yes our public spaces are getting cruddier, but treatment and empowerment for homeless people has a much greater effect than police sweeping them to and fro (eg Right 2 Dream, Hazelnut grove). Police sweeps do little for long-term public safety.
Rachel b – you present some generalizations, and I wonder how you come by them. It is harder for women and children to be on the street, this changes the equation of the least bad option, but very few of the dozens of people (many ages/genders) I have heard from want to sleep outside. When people have nothing but terrible options, I don’t think we can consider this a free choice.
I don’t hear people saying we can love people into wholeness, and certainly not that it will be instant. There can be consequences for horrible actions, but most people on the street are not performing horrible actions. I can understand people being at the end of their rope. Self-care is important, but not in itself a solution to homelessness.
Also, I live next to Lents and the Springwater. I have women friends who live in Lents who engage more than I do on these issues. I wonder if you know the neighborhood, and why you assume I/we are not a part of it.
Hi Jim–The specific issue at hand is homeless campers in high-traffic public spaces and natural areas. Most people here (including me) are not talking about the homeless in general, just the campers and just on bike paths and in parks. Treatment, which I agree needs to be available, can be refused, and would be by many campers. We can work toward making treatment more available and empowering the homeless at the same time we set terms about how they (or anyone for that matter) can use public space.
If you lived in Portland before Occupy in 2011, you might remember it was relatively rare to see anyone pitch a tent in a really high-traffic, primo spot on the waterfront or along a trail. People tended to find out-of-the-way spots. It was also relatively rare for people to gather more stuff than they could carry in a shopping cart. This behavior couldn’t have taken off in Portland the way it did without residents and the government tolerating it.
Re: the meth-addicted sister, a better extension of my analogy than yours would be if the sister insisted on taking over the best room in the house. You and I should have a right to move her to the basement.
I mentioned Dignity Village in another comment below–the City gave this group of campers space on the site of a former leaf mulching facility out by the airport. This is the kind of space it’s reasonable to give away to people who want to camp, not parks, bike trails or nature areas and not close-in parcels in neighborhoods or business areas, like the ones briefly considered in the Pearl and near the Tilikum bridgehead for right2dream2. If the City hosted Hazelnut Grove or right2dream2 on parcels out near the airport, I think most people would be a lot more supportive.
I did live here back then and I do remember. There were fewer people camping, and they were not as commented upon, but they were still present (eg Dignity Village and those who formed R2D2). And the economic and substance situation was not as bad. I think it us far more to do with societal causes than us somehow being soft or lenient.
I think it reasonable to set conditions on people using high-traffic public space. I react strongly to the idea of criminalizing people or using the police as they currently act. This is the equivalent of taking a sledge hammer to shell a pea. Albeit, an often addicted or mentally challenged, potentially violent pea. But it is doing harm to people.
I really don’t feel that homeless people are taking over the city/the house a la the addicted sister. I can easily find routes that avoid areas with many camps or people. This does put me more amongst cars, but that is another struggle all together. And I live in a relatively impoverished area.
Dignity village is a great model. But I don’t think it helpful to move everyone out to the airport or a building at Wapato built to be a jail. This is far away from the services and community that people rely on who have almost nothing else. Regardless of the moral right or wrong, it is just plain less likely to attract people and so less likely to work. Sadly our city and our business community and many of our neighborhoods are so against giving any spaces for people to exist in, that they end up in underfunded and neglected areas such as bike paths and parks (and freeway ramps and city land etc. etc.)
You know, I have a lot of compassion for the homeless. I spent a couple of years living on the streets when I was a teenager, and I’ve always been very generous with people I see that need help. I understand the circumstances leading to homelessness and drug addiction are complicated, I also understand that homelessness is a symptom of the failings of our system, and not nearly as much a symptom of these people’s failings as individuals. I even at certain points have let a homeless person live in my garage during the winter, I really am aware of the humanity of people living on the streets. I know how hard it is, and I especially know how people look at you as though you’re subhuman. It’s terrible.
That said, I really think it’s important to recognize, while this may be portland’s most marginalized population, this is also the same population that has among other things, been stealing from and stabbing hardworking, dare I say, tax paying folk of this city for years. Also keep in mind, that many times these people are in fact stealing from people that have little more than the homeless do themselves. Sometimes people’s cars get broken into when they are living month-to-month and they can barely afford car payments. Or their bike, being their only source of transportation might get stolen. In many ways, while I acknowledge this population is a victim of the system, we are victims of (some of) them. The fear people live in due to service resistant homeless drug addicts is palpable. I had a neighbor who was told, “It’s my right to steal anything in your backyard I want, and if I have to kill your dog to do it, that’s fine with me”. People are beaten up, attacked for no reason, their houses broken into, sheds ripped off, bikes stolen, all the time by this population. The only times I’ve been afraid of violence in the past several years, all homeless people. The only time I’ve seen someone trying my doorknob, or looking into my windows to see if there’s anything worth breaking in and stealing, all homeless people. The only people threatening me when I walk down the street, homeless people.
I think there’s this narrative of radical inclusivity on the left, and it’s certainly well-intentioned but I’m not sure it’s actually all that productive. We all have to stick up for each and every person no matter their circumstances, and to single out and alienate absolutely anyone is wrong. I get that, I think it’s a value system that goes a long way in the right conditions, I really do. But I think it really misses a huge point, that certain homeless people make a conscious choice to live on the streets, violently and aggressively preying on people that do not. I know this because I have seen it, I have heard it from their mouths, and yes, I believe that they are victims of the system, but I also believe that it is their primary objective to victimize other people. Victimize people that have jobs and can afford to buy the things that these service resistant homeless drug addicts want to steal.
I go out of my way to show kindness to homeless people. But I am afraid of some of them, because some of them are not nice people. I think that the dogmatic defense of this population, with sometimes zero acknowledgment that they are a super problematic population, is tone deaf and ignorant. Yes we need better civic and social management of the homeless population. Yes anti-homeless rhetoric is bad. Yes people like to blame homeless people for ridiculous things and don’t understand often their lives just crashed due to little fault of their own. But it’s really annoying when people act like there’s no reason to be upset.
There are some parallels between the way people see one arrogant and irresponsible cyclist and they assume all cyclists act this way, and the way people similarly perceive the homeless. I am cognizant of the danger here. But again, there are some serious predators here that really take advantage of people’s powerlessness.
I think it’s ironic and depressing that these 3 jerks assaulted this poor woman, intending to assault homeless people. I think it’s absolutely as a result of the anti-homeless sentiment in our city. I think it’s awful, and I think it’s wrong. I go out of my way to correct over-zealous hatred of the homeless as I’m sure many people do, but don’t underestimate the terror that people have experienced at the hands of this population. I think these 3 men’s actions are as much a result of poor leadership regarding the social climate surrounding this issue as are the actions of some homeless people.
Very objective comment.
*** Comment of the week ***
noted. thank you David.
“while this may be portland’s most marginalized population, this is also the same population that has among other things, been stealing from and stabbing”
As you yourself noted several times further down in your comment, this is false.
*Some* of the houseless are predisposed to violence, criminal behavior etc., and I think it is on us to keep track of these distinctions. Many/most homeless are *not* victimizing anyone.
He did fail to qualify that every *single* time, but if you read the entire comment you will know that that is what he meant, and really emphasized. It’s all over the comment and every reasonable person knows that he knows that, and thinks it’s important.
Mincing words and pouncing on the letter of one part of the comment, instead of understanding and responding to the spirit of the entire comment, gets no one anywhere. It’s just pettiness.
Except that in my view this slippage is one of the key problems we encounter every day, not just in the comments here.
None of us are perfectly consistent in every single thing we say and do; all of us sometimes slip up and say something with an implication other than what we intend. The humane and reasonable thing to do is to take that into account, listen to the overall message, correct someone when necessary, and ask if you’re not sure.
It seems that you and the person you are criticizing agree on much of the core issue, so attacking one small slip-up isn’t productive. We all seem to be on the same side, and language policing and finger pointing are just divisive. Remember, this is a person who used to be homeless. He’s not aiming random vitriol at the houseless, but is expressing real concerns. Forgetting to include one qualification one time isn’t grounds for a broader, tone deaf criticism.
You haven’t responded to the heart or the essence of the message. Instead, these comments are more akin to someone who feels they’ve “won” because the person they disagree with misspelled something.
I think you’re using straw man and slippery slope logical fallacies, which you can google if you’re not familiar. As a community we can discuss these things. We can listen to the other side and disagree without honing in on inconsequential things, knowing full well it wasn’t what the other person meant. We don’t have to tilt at windmills.
You seem really hung up on this.
In my comment above, which you’re objecting to so strenuously, I pointed out what you are saying. That as he acknowledged elsewhere in his comment not all houseless….
Ironic, as 9 loves to accuse others of straw men.
That really is funny, and not too surprising. Some people just enjoy fostering conflict.
Yep. That’s me!
“this is also the same population that has among other things, been stealing from and stabbing hardworking, dare I say, tax paying folk of this city for years”
how exactly does a population steal from someone?
You found the hole, now exploit it!
“I go out of my way to show kindness to homeless people. But I am afraid of some of them, because some of them are not nice people. I think that the dogmatic defense of this population, with sometimes zero acknowledgment that they are a super problematic population, is tone deaf and ignorant”
Such wise and well spoken words. Our Portland beauacracy has yet to figure out how to walk this line. You can’t expect a person who has lived through the trama of what made them homeless and being homeless to pick themselves up from their bootstraps in the same way you would someone who has not experienced that trama.
” I think that the dogmatic defense of this population, with sometimes zero acknowledgment that they are a super problematic population, is tone deaf and ignorant”
And the dogmatic indictment of the undifferentiated homeless population is equally ignorant and tone deaf.
The problem isn’t the homeless; it is sweeping characterizations of heterogenous populations.
But sometimes sweeping generalizations are still accurate.
Okay, I will not make a sweeping generalization that most lions will probably kill me given the chance.
After reading about 60 of theses comments. Your the only one that makes any real since. With that said. After 60 comments like, unfortunately this ratio confirms my feelings that Portland is no longer a place for my family to call home. I hope you can band together to solve this problem. I sure will not wait around to be have wife attacked by another homeless person.
I live in a neighborhood where 15-20% of the residents are unhoused. I have worked to secure funding for housing for some of them through a non-profit that was a child of a non-profit that I am on the board of. I’ve also worked with my city to get several public bathrooms open 24/7 and to place porta-potties with sharps containers inside them and trash cans in strategic places. I’ve even housed homeless people in my own home. There have been brutal, fatal attacks on homeless people in my neighborhood as well.
I’ve also had homeless drug addicts break in to my neighbors’ homes. Several female neighbors who live alone are afraid to come out during certain hours because of past harassment from homeless men. My entire family and an employee have been attacked by homeless people while riding on bike paths and while walking. (So far we have all escaped unharmed.) There are some really messed-up people out there and some of them are homeless.
I can see where someone who has had my negative experiences but hasn’t found a way to engage the overwhelming majority of homeless people who are not inclined towards violence might see our region’s visible homeless problem, the camps in public spaces, as extremely problematic from a safety standpoint. These camps are intimidating for a number of reasons (people living outside societal norms, people who apparently have nothing to lose, people whose life scares us because we’re not so certain such a fate will never befall us…)
Solutions? Oh my, if I had a simple solution I’d run for office. Meanwhile, the folks who just want to ride their bikes without having to solve all of society’s ills have to choose: help fix some of these problems or have some of your cycling restricted. We make the same choice regarding our out of control car culture. We pick where to make specific improvements so we can get where we want to go when we want to go there in relative ease and safety.
It’s going to take similar types of engagement to deal with the camps. Just like we allow certain roads to be arterials and freeways, we’re probably going to have to set aside spaces for functioning camps and help bring them about. The recent ninth circuit decision kind of makes the elimination of camps impossible until we have alternatives, so we can howl at the moon or get on with making those happen.
Agreed that we will need different approaches. We need more funding for shelters, and jobs programs, but we also need “sweep teams” that can clean up the public space and filter out the criminal element. The example given in the previous article about the Sandy underpass along I-205 is a good one. In this case, we have people camping not adjacent to the path, but ON the path, and smashing bottles to deter other path users. The team, composed of City work crews and 1-2 police officers (on-call in close proximity) would have to relocate this camp to a space outside of the path ROW, and clean up the glass. If the work crew is threatened, those campers would then be arrested. Campers who continue to attack or threaten path users and trail crews would continue to get arrested and jailed. Campers who allow trail users to pass safely and unimpeded will not be bothered.
My wife and daughters cannot safely ride the path. Heck, I don’t even feel safe riding the path during daylight unless I’m with a group.
I’ve been verbally accosted and intimidated into turn around when the paths have been blocked by people whose body language indicated they had no intention of allowing me to pass. Then there’s the trash and collection of items of value that appear out of place given the circumstances of those nearby.
If I, and many others, don’t feel safe using these recreation/transportation corridors for their intended use, what’s the point of having them?
It’s also quite disheartening to find that PPB’s response time to this attempt to injure a cyclist was 15 minutes. If someone was throwing rocks from an overpass onto I-205 what would PPB’s response time be? Just another example of how cyclists’ needs are not being met.
Yes, I’m afraid. And I’m becoming really upset at losing access to paths and other things I enjoy and pay for because certain people are seizing them for their own purposes. I’m sick of it.
Never thought I’d see, on a site I financially support, people called “Trumpian” who just want to be able to use their public spaces safely. That support will end now, so I can at least know I’m not a part of it. Peace out, ladies and gentlemen.
I appreciate your support of this site. Just want you to know that this is a guest opinion that I decided to publish because I think there’s value in having the various perspectives around this issue be heard. Sorry to hear one word in one post is enough to make you want to stop supporting BikePortland. I have no problem ending your subscription; but I just wanted to share my comment here to explain why this op-ed was published. Thanks.
I actually didn’t notice the “guest opinion”; apologies. Maybe the next time you promote a random, abusive commenter to the front page, you make it far more obvious that’s what’s going on? Maybe even keep it out of the RSS feeds? Or not do it at all?
Words are very powerful; it often doesn’t take more than one. 😉
I have really enjoyed the comments that followed this piece. For me that is one of the reasons it is important to support bikeportland. Having disscussions like this are what make a community grow. I wish there were more opportunities for us to meet in person to discuss these topics as well. I also thought that Trumpian line was unwarrented and I don’t think they would have used it if they were talking in a bar to a friend who made a similar observation.
You’ll notice that many debates with Progressives will end in such a manner – any difference in opinion means that you are the enemy. Same goes for alt-Right types.
Nothing preventing those called out from attempting a defense.
At this point I don’t think anyone should have any illusions what our president is about, and the fact that his statements and actions have consequences. Focusing on the use of this path—impacts this complicated mess have on our access—is perfectly reasonable, but what is often lacking among many commenters here is perspective. Houselessness for the houseless is to me an issue an order of magnitude more of a problem than our use of our public parks or paths. In a country that had its priorities straight we could have both: everyone housed, and pristine public spaces accessible to all. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a different country, and the fact that neither obtain should give us pause.
So all Portland MUP and parks should be repurposed as houseless camps?
9watts–you know I adore you. But how would you feel if you had lived in Lents, backed up to the Springwater camps, for the past several years? How much have you really had to deal with these campers in your own daily life? How much have you been impacted? Not goading–just trying to get your compassion to extend to people whose lives have been severely impacted by campers who are committing crimes.
I don’t pretend to have solutions, or know deep down what it would be like to have been victimized in the ways you suggest. My chief concern in these discussions is not to defend miscreants, the subset of the unhoused who seem bent on victimizing others, but to insist that we differentiate those from the people whose only crime is lacking housing. I have to assume that the majority of the houseless do not fit the vindictive stereotypes that fly around here, and don’t deserve all this ire. Id prefer to focus on behaviors, criminality, rather than lumping all people who happen to be houseless together and scapegoat them.
We have a crisis on our hands, and I’m very frustrated by our elected officials’ ineffectiveness, their apparent paralysis, but I’m also not convinced that there are ready solutions waiting to be implemented. In the meantime I want us to not scapegoat.
And yet we still give elected officials more and more money to get it wrong.
Here’s a pretty good article from OPB highlighting some aspects that we’ve all been discussing.
I quoted some paragraphs suggesting that government is doing something about the issue. I suppose you can say the money isn’t enough, it never is however, this article discusses the number of people that are homeless on a given night, how much money is being spent, and possibly theories of why numbers of homeless people are increasing.
“By October 2017, the nightly census hit 468 people. The number of families staying in motels, paid for by the city and county, outnumbered the families at the shelter itself.”
“Housing one family in a motel for a month costs the city and the county $3,318 on average. Housing a family at the Human Solutions shelter for a month costs $2,265.”
“In 2017, the Oregon Department of Education reported a record number of homeless students in the state: 22,541 children from kindergarten to 12th grade, or 3.9 percent of the public school population.”
“In 2017, the Joint Office spent record amounts on programs like rent assistance to prevent homelessness. The Portland City Council passed a policy requiring landlords to pay relocation costs for tenants displaced by rising rents or evicted without cause.”
““Families migrated to the shelter from all over the country,” said Frye. ”
We often jump down the throats of elected politicians, because frankly, we have no one else to blame. We scoff at the police for their behavior, we blame the person camping in the tent down the street because our car got broken into (oops, maybe I shouldn’t have left my iphone charger in sight). Our sentiment is deeply rooted in this idea that there’s no political will, no one gives a damn. I think we’re all wrong. I think the problem is far worse than we imagine.
At this very money, I just heard on the radio (OPB) that Vancouver is going to open a new shelter and it’s going to have showers, laundry, charging stations — all geared to help people transition to permanent housing.
Oh, and two days ago, I heard also on OPB that an old Mult County building on NE Killingsworth and NE MLK Blvd will soon open as a shelter and give priority to families, veterans, and people with disabilities. People will be prescreened and be allowed to stay until they find permanent housing. No lines, no waiting.
Things are happening, you just have to pay attention.
“Here’s a pretty good article from OPB highlighting some aspects that we’ve all been discussing.”
i almost posted the same article, but not so much as bright spot to the housing crisis, but more of a dark spot…think dark charcoal.
homelessness sucks. no question. i don’t have the answer yet, but the emotional knee-jerk response (“lets give them housing!!”) isn’t it. the situation is way more nuanced than we care to think…its just so much easier to feel good about writing a check (nimby tho, amirite?) than it is to try to understand the solution (summary: check writing easy, caring hard).
per the article:
* motel housing costs the program 180% over the average monthly rent for a 2bdrm apartment. if you google “unsustainable,” it won’t give you a picture of this stat, but it should. saying all people have a right to housing is great, feels good, but at “any cost” ultimately won’t work. sorry.
* the program was quickly swamped by homeless families migrating to the neighborhood because, well…free housing. rolling up our sleeves and solving this on a local level then may also be a feel-good response, but may not be the answer either…homelessness isn’t a local issue, localized solutions can become inundated by regional/national demands.
all that said, the op-ed….picking through un-edited words of raw fear/anger over realized threats to personal safety just to build the narrative that “people aren’t talking nice” is childish and the signaling i’ve come to expect from portland. neither is it the answer to anything.
The responses to the guest opinion are proving the writer’s point. The defensiveness of the commenters here really is unseemly. Instead of focusing your energy on pushing back against the writer, why not use that energy instead to reflect on your own thoughts and behaviors? Yes, it sucks that there are usability issues on the multiuse path, but they are a symptom of wider societal problems that force these human beings to the margins, which sucks even more for them. Are some of the people living along the path criminals? Sure, just like some housed people are criminals. The people who assaulted the cyclist committed a crime and should be dealt with accordingly. Their housing status does not figure into that. Maybe instead of putting all of our focus on our own discomfort in traveling along the path, we should work towards solving societal issues that lead to homelessness. This includes economics, as well as addiction, which by the way, most of us are a bad accident away from becoming drug addicts and a job loss away from losing our housing. In the meantime, we should come up with a means to provide adequate shelter for ALL homeless people. I’m guessing that living along a path in tents and not having an actual bathroom to use is not anyone’s first choice here? It wasn’t their first choice either.
I believe this quote: “Yes, it sucks that there are usability issues on the multiuse path, but they are a symptom of wider societal problems that force these human beings to the margins, which sucks even more for them,” is at the crux of people’s issue with the whole thing.
This isn’t really an issue of personal convenience, it actually comes down to the political viability of any public space in the entire city. If people don’t feel they can safely use public parks in certain neighborhoods or can’t use bike paths after certain hours, why should they support a budget for maintaining the ones we have or building new ones?
I have talked with folks who oppose new MUPs because they fear those new facilities will suffer the same fate as the 205 path. Sadly, I have no assurances to offer.
Right here on BikePortland:
This is the direct result of tolerating abuse of public spaces. And why we can no longer have anything nice.
It’s not defensiveness. Reread.
I started riding in 2011. I have never experienced the Waterfront Path free of homeless presence. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never experience the Waterfront Path free of homeless presence. I have resigned myself to being in a state of constant vigilance while on that Path. I cannot imagine what it is like riding on Eastside paths like the Esplanade, the Springwater, etc. where you are essentially trapped on both sides, and only have the option of backtracking out of shady situations. Recently a coworker who rides from Milwaukie on the Esplanade said she saw a glint of light off something shiny above her head as she rode along. Upon focusing on the object, she was shocked to realize it was an unsavory individual crouching behind bushes holding a crossbow.
Super glad I do not have to have Those concerns, as yet.
Understandable fears, completely sensible worries, practical steps taken to avoid (though exasperating–women’s lives are limited by this shite plenty enough, thank you). But–prepare to have your reasonable concerns characterized as defensiveness and lack of compassion, here.
I am honestly at the end of my rope with the Bizarro World crazy upside-downness of the debate in Portland on this subject, and I’m disappointed in bikeportland for feeding that self righteous “you have no compassion!” fingerpointing that’s epidemic in the past 10 yrs, and which ignores FACT. We have a right to expect safety on the trails and in the parks we’ve–many of us–spent years supporting. That’s not a weird expectation. And it doesn’t mean we hate the homeless! What’s weird is to expect an entire city to bend to a proven threatening element that’s using camps (and misplaced Portland “compassion” contests) as a shield. And I’m acknowledging “NOT ALL…” etc. But, seriously–how many accounts like Melodie’s does it take?
I completely agree! Parks and paths are not safe or comfortable for me to use with my daughter. My neighbors have given up going to many parks and openspaces because it is too sketchy. The City routinely passes the buck and does nothing. I am a landscape architect who works on parks and streets, and I have sat through many many meetings with exasperated City staff who do not have the budget of authority to keep parks clean, safe or even usable. All Bureaus are reluctant to build any new openspace of any kind because it will get trashed and they do not have the maintenance budget to deal with it. The City is breaking its promise to its citizens: In exchange for paying taxes and living densely, we will create a network of shared, safe, clean, beautiful openspaces for you and functional transportation choices. People of means are already making choices to move out, drive to better recreation options and not support more improvements/access to public spaces. I think Portland is at a crossroads with this issue.
I decided to post Andrew Riley’s opinion because I felt like the community should know that there are people who feel the way he does about this topic. It’s not the last thing I will ever post on this topic. And it certainly doesn’t mean I share his views.
And I’m afraid my decision-making on this topic so far hasn’t been great. I did not expect you and so many others to assume that because I published Andrew’s piece it meant that I — and “BikePortland” — agreed with it. If you knew me better and if you stepped back and read the many posts and comments made over many years here on BP… I think you’d begin to see that I too am very very concerned about the conditions of these paths.
To say that I am am intentionally muting voices of people who are concerned about the path conditions is not really understanding my motives and who I am.
Again: As we can see, there are extremely different perspectives on this issue within our community. I think airing them out is a positive and productive thing. The homeless issue is severe and “compassion contests” are frustrating and annoying to me too. I want to make things better, not fight amongst ourselves.
I think my next post will be to share several of the comments from this thread like Melodie’s.
“I decided to post Andrew Riley’s opinion because I felt like the community should know that there are people who feel the way he does about this topic.”
…and that’s where my beef lies. My feeling is that Andrew’s point of view is so overreported in this city, it’s literally stymied efforts to effectively address the issue. It’s rare to hear the voices of frustrated neighbors impacted by campers, and when they’re spoken to they’re so cowed by the compassion police, it’s as good as being gagged. I think we’re more in danger of stifling the majority of folks who live here who are understandably fed up with the loss of their public spaces and the dangers and nuisances presented if one wants to use them now. That, and the huge upsurge in so-called “petty” crime coincident with the proliferation of the camps. And the drug use, as evidenced by scores of needles.
I don’t think I said anything about you muting voices–I didn’t mean to, at any rate. I think you know I’m your fan for the work you do here, and I appreciate it more than words can express. You are doing the work of dozens, all on your own, and I know it’s exhausting and all-consuming. So my thanks, to you, Jonathan, for bikeportland and for fighting the fight with such commitment. I’m sorry if I made you feel misunderstood.
My problem is with yet another news outlet I like amplifying one voice, a voice that inexplicably gets the mic over and over again, a voice that regularly puts neighbors in the “Shame on you!” box, labeling them “compassionless” and “heartless”–which is not only insulting, but false.
That’s all I meant. I get an earful of Andrew’s point of view in Portland, and it fills me with hopelessness, and I don’t think I’m alone.
I hear you loud and clear Rachel b. And I share your concerns. Presenting Andrew’s email like this might not have been my best decision.
(But keep in mind Andrew isn’t alone in thinking BP commenters lack compassion toward the homeless – I have heard that from many others over the years, which is something I kept in mind when I decided to post this.)
I hope you – we – can all keep moving past this and continue to evolve the discussion.
This is certainly not the last time I will post something about this issue.
Thanks for your comments and feedback on this. I wish we could all hash this out in person.
Speaking as a woman (because we definitely have concerns that men don’t have to deal with and can’t really understand):
I ride and walk frequently on the Waterfront Path, and along the Eastside Esplanade, often after dark, and sometimes late at night. I’m barely over 100 lbs, so I know I’m vulnerable. I’m wary but not afraid on those paths. I’m in a state of “constant vigilance” just like I am whenever I ride on streets, or walk anywhere in public. It feels like a normal city experience (which isn’t ideal, but my point is that these paths aren’t a special case).
I’m an anxious person by nature, but when considering biking around homeless people, I think about that actual statistical risks I’m facing, and realize that it’s likely safer for me to be in that situation than in most of our bike lanes.
So my pushback for your concerns are: Do you really need a path “free of homeless presence” to feel safe? Would you feel safe in a situation devoid of people (and potential witnesses)? How do your perceptions of safety compare to statistically-backed levels of risk?
I don’t mind people camping, it’s the syringes and feces that I have to steer around that bothers me.
Sorry, the homeless in Portland are not “neighbors” in any sense of the word. They have just about ruined this jewell of a city (I care much more about this beautiful city than I do about the subnormal miscreants who, at best, occupy space and at worst, well, just look around.
They need to stop doing the things that hold them down, find jobs and work hard.
The vast majority of people hanging out on the street are more than capable of working and dilute resources that could be going to a core group of mentally ill. If it truly “takes a village” to solve problems aren’t the homeless also part of that village and isn’t their buy-in necessary to effect a solution?
I’m 67 and throw packages at brown to earn money. If I can do that, they can too!
Right. The homeless have ruined our city.
Let’s focus on the most vulnerable, those kicked aside, with nothing, and blame them for our ills, just like Trump and his minions.
Do they not have impacts?
This is getting absurd. We are so habituated to focus exclusively on the kinds of crimes committed by the most miserable, all the while ignoring the real criminals, those whose white collar actions create the circumstances of all this inequality, this misery. Jeff Bezos’s company paid zero taxes last year. The idea that it is the homeless who are to blame is just so ignorant.
So Jeff Bezos is to blame?
I’m trying to suggest some context. Instead of wringing our hands, shrieking, blaming the poorest tier of our society we should acknowledge how our politics and policies and priorities got us here.
Can we not also admit some people got their through their own choices?
“the homeless in Portland are not “neighbors” in any sense of the word.
” 1. a person who lives near another.
” 2. a person or thing that is near another.
” 3. one’s fellow human being:
” to be generous toward one’s less fortunate neighbors.
Yeah, right, you are the standard of everyone. I worked at UPS in college. Throwing packages got you one warning, then fired. A colleague at my last job needed rehab & special technology just to type after working at FedEx trashed her elbows. I’m a year younger than you and my knees and back might get me through one shift, but probably not. Then there’s discrimination in hiring, plus the logistical nightmare of trying to job hunt when living on the street.
I purposely haven’t read the other comments yet. What disturbs me is what I see happening to our society. In talking with people in Denmark, Germany, Japan, Korea, Sweden etc etc, they Don’t seem to have this problem, and they don’t have bloated corporate prison industries. They sure as hell don’t treat their citizens that have problems with contempt. Oh, but we sure tell everyone how to live their lives as we walk out of church Sunday morning to go back to our own Black Friday spending and war profiteering. This is a dying civilization.
Yes. Comparisons to other countries are good reality checks. None of this is natural, inevitable, unavoidable.
But we also shouldn’t disregard that none of those countries have 320MM people and are all relatively homogenous. Small homogenous populations are notoriously more successful at handling social issues.
Yeah, well. Excuses.
We can choose to keep buying trillions of dollars of weapons every year, or we can prioritize people. It doesn’t have to be difficult if we had our priorities straight.
is it inaccurate though?
On Youtube is a video series by a Canadian living in Japan titled “Why Japan’s Homeless are Different from North America’s”
Many differences and some similarities. Japan, nationally, has accomplished impressive reductions in homelessness. Comparatively low rate to start, too.
What stood out most to me, Japan has something of a legal mandate to look after it citizens well being. From the Japanese constitution:
“We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want. “
And our constitution specifically mentions “promote the general welfare…” right in the preamble.
This should be enough to solve the crisis, but sadly, many in this country have a very perverted interpretation of the constitution, and choose to focus on certain parts more than others.
“Ah, so before I can have safe public spaces, I need to completely solve the homeless problem?”
More than that, you need to overthrow world capitalism.
North Korea doesn’t have this problem, after all.
This is always the problem. We can’t make progress on any issue until all inequality, anywhere in the universe, is solved. It’s a recipe for doing absolutely nothing, and kicking sand while blaming the usual vague assortment of “boogeymen”: capitalism, the military-industrial complex, white privilege, etc.
You could just as easily look at this the other way around.
Solutions that could be effected, scaled up, funded, are swamped by that list of ills you just threw out sarcastically which spits out millions more surplus poor people. My friends and I can staff a homeless shelter, let the occasional person sleep in our basement or back yard, collect food and clothes, hold the proverbial bake sale, but meanwhile our tax dollars are being siphoned off for war the world over. We can and will keep toiling away, but it isn’t unreasonable to note that this doesn’t have to be such a scrappy end-of-pipe, frustrating, exhausting effort, but something our public institutions didn’t just tackle but actually got on top of, solved.
While we’re getting way off-topic, it is worth keeping in mind that according to Amnesty USA in this article: https://blog.amnestyusa.org/us/housing-its-a-wonderful-right/ our country currently has 3.5 million homeless and 18.5 million vacant homes. I’m not saying the problem is easy to solve, but it is soluble and it is one of distribution.
I bet those vacant homes are also in areas where the cost on a per unit basis is much less than a coastal city. Granted, this suggests moving people to a place they don’t know, and we already know there are residents of Coal Cough Hollow, West Virginia that have absolutely no future in the modern economy in that location and they will not move to save their life (literally).
Most of those vacant homes are most likely second homes, part time vacation rentals, etc.
I lived next to a popular drug house in Foster Powell for seven years. I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. I used to think I was a bleeding heart liberal, but ugh, that experience changed me. I can’t imagine what it is like for people who have homes along the 205 bike path.
My wife does not feel comfortable riding the 205 bike path with me in daylight hours anymore. One trip from Stark to Glisan was enough for both of us to say “NEVER. AGAIN.” We ride with all the traffic on 92nd now…it is safer.
Yes, at a national level we need universal health care, social services funded like we do the military, income equality, I agree with all of that. Until then I feel like we are in a situation like this:
person 1: “This house is on fire, we should put it out!”
person 2: “Indeed it is on fire, but rather than putting the fire out, we should figure out the root causes of fire in general, have a dialogue about them, come together with solutions, and then we can prevent fires in the future.”
person 1: “Yes I agree, but in the meantime the house has burned down.”
Who is Andrew Riley and why should I care about what he thinks? My focus is getting around as safe as possible on my bicycle. Criminal activity and camping is making bike paths un-usable for bicycle riders. I don’t care if the people taking away my transportation option are homeless/houseless or just plain criminals and drug addicts. As long as the city allows our bike paths to become lawless messes full of trash and drug use then we have a problem. Our only travel options that don’t involve sharing roads with 4000 pound cars are trashed and blocked.
Do you care about violent attacks directed at houseless folk ?
Yes, but I care less about that than the violent attacks directed at me and my family. In addition to paying taxes that help support solutions to general solutions to such problems, we make some pretty generous donations to causes that are directly aimed at homelessness and food insecurity. My sympathy tanks is just about exhausted.
He might…but he probably cares about his own personal safety first.
Wow, I am well and truly horrified that this post linked my comment about supporting a sweep in campers blocking the path to make the path safer for all users with ‘supporting slave labor’. I knew that expressing the opinion that I feel afraid to ride this path would get screams of outrage from people for demonizing the homeless, but this is just absolutely unacceptable.
Jonathan, I’ve long known that this wasn’t a place where I could say out loud that I feel afraid when people block the bike path – but I’m really shocked to see that feeling confirmed so specifically. If you want to build a community here where women feel safe speaking up, well. You’ve got a long way to go.
I would not worry about what this Andrew Wiley person is saying. He way, way off the main stream. You are expressing the reasonable opinion and he is not. He twisted your words to match his warped view.
I read your “yeah” as meaning to stop tolerating campers on MUPs (and maybe MUP easements and parks). Folks may disagree with that policy or not, but if they can’t understand why the situation feels unsafe to you (not to mention to large men like me), then yes, there’s a nasty communication issue among some commenters here.
Agree that women’s concerns about the safety issue are being minimized. Thanks for speaking up, Sara.
As I indicated above, I’m not only worried about the safety of my wife and daughters, I’m worried about my personal safety, too. Safety of ALL path users is being compromised by what’s happening along the paths.
In my view, too many people are complaining on this forum about those of us who are fearful, uncomfortable and afraid. Some are even going so far as to brand us as unsympathetic or even bigots because we dare to express our fear or frustration that we cannot use MUPs because of the prevalence of criminals, campers, bike collectors, or whoever is out there.
I hear you and I’m sorry for how this went. As I shared in my email exchange with you tonight, I’ve blurred out the names of the commenters and have issued an update trying to explain my intentions with the post.
The last thing I want to do is minimize anyones experience or perspective. I’m doing the best I can here. Thanks for reading and for your comment. Please keep the feedback coming and I’ll keep trying to do better.
I really appreciate how responsive you were to my concerns, and how you’ve responded publicly here. I share your desire to see dialog about these issues.
Come on Maus, posting this is just irrisponsible. Its just irrational garbage that intentionally misreads, misconstrues, and puts words into peoples mouths… but because it’s “pro unhoused” we all have to pretend it’s a reasonable liberal position.
**moderated insult** I know it’s good for ad revenue but shouldn’t you screen this stuff a little bit?
Sweden, France, Netherlands, United States, Germany. Which of these has the highest percentage of their population classified as homeless? According to Wikipedia it is: Sweden – 0.36%, France – 0.21%, Netherlands – 0.19%, U.S. – 0.17%, Germany – 0.14%. Somehow all those very cycling friendly countries can keep their bicycle routes safe and clean with homeless rates generally higher than the US. I wonder how? My guess is they treat bicycle routes with the same priority as automobile and train routes and don’t allow people to impede them with tents and trash. I don’t know how to solve the homeless issue but I do know how to solve the bicycle transportation issue and that is keep the routes clear, safe, and clean. Keeping bike paths clear is not a homelessness issue it is a transportation issue.
The rate of homelessness is not always associated with the rate of people sleeping outside. New York has very high rates of homelessness but because of their extensive shelter system and the “right to housing” in the NY city charter (or state constitution? can’t recall…) the rate of people without shelter on a given night is a fraction of what it is in SF.
My bicycle was stolen in Troutdale when I ventured back to Portland to take a UBI course at the start of October. It was a homeless person who stole it (I know this, because it was partially recovered from a camp off the Sandy River). While I was really, really, really angry about situation, it also left me reflecting on the state of our nation economically, specifically the desperation. Homelessness is nothing short of terrible. Sure, some homeless folks are bad, but most are just lost in this world and need help to get back. We can’t just write everyone off as a depraved druggie and call it a day.
I’m absolutely appalled that anyone would defend the mass destruction of public spaces, let alone defend the assault of a bike commuter. It’s time we Portland stood up to the activist bullies and demanded safe parks, safe trails and safe public transit. It’s the least we can expect.
UPDATE, 5:34 pm: I have blurred out the names of the commenters. Also, I want everyone to know that my intent in posting this was to show the community how the comments on the previous post were being heard by some people. I realize that some readers don’t appreciate that I’ve elevated Mr. Riley’s comments to the Front Page in this manner.
Please understand this is an extremely difficult topic to moderate (especially in 2018). I’m trying to move the conversation forward and I regret if this post set things back. I believe we need to be able to hear different perspectives and that more conversation is always better. Thank you
To ‘move the conversation forward’, I’d ask that you also post commentary from folks who feel unsafe reading this path as it currently is. If no one is clamoring to write that post for you, you might examine why.
I have posted several times about people who don’t feel safe biking on these paths. It’s a topic that has been covered here in the past in many different ways.
That being said, I have also withheld posts from people who say they felt scared because I was worried that it would be taken as “bicyclists don’t care about homeless people.”
My default when making editorial decisions it to protect the more vulnerable people. In this case, I believe that’s the people living on the path. I do not diminish the fears of bicycle riders at all. Can’t believe I’m even having to type this… But in situations like this my default goes to the people with less power and less ability to change their situation.
And I’d be more than happy to share a post on the front page from someone who’s concerned about biking on the path! Just because I haven’t done that yet doesn’t mean I think that perspective has no value.
Thanks for reading and contributing.
UPDATE: Don’t miss our latest story on the incident where I’ve reported an update from the DA’s office:
Well said, rachel.
Thanks for posting this. I’m disappointed but not surprised to see so many commenters getting defensive.
It’s not fair that cyclists’ needs are pit against the needs of homeless people. Cyclists are justified in feeling angry that we’re in this situation, and that we are expected to put up with discomfort and danger that drivers are not. Everyone (including women, like myself) should feel safe using our MUPs, and clearly that’s not currently the case.
This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to make generalizations about homeless people being dangerous. It doesn’t mean that we get to assert that our needs for comfort and safety are more important than homeless people’s needs for comfort and safety. And it’s imperative that cyclists who do have the privilege of some stability (in housing, income, mental health) take extra care to appreciate the more extreme hardships faced by the vast majority of homeless people, and to have our opinions and policy stances reflect that.
Nobody’s getting defensive and no one’s making generalizations about the homeless. Reread and please try to resist the almighty (I do understand it!) temptation to frame the conversation in these false terms. So that we can actually have a discussion, here.
Nobody’s making generalizations?
“And the men choosing to camp are eschewing shelters etc. because they don’t like the rules.”
“criminal behavior, and–like it or not–much of that is coming from addicts/folks (men) camping in Portland”
“campers who are committing crimes”
Er…as I’m reading it, these comments are very carefully worded NOT to paint all homeless people as the problem. Not even all campers.
It’s symptomatic of where Americans are now culturally that we always come back to individual rights and that keeps us from discussing changes that need to be made to systems (gun rights is a good example of this on the right). The system of allowing unregulated homeless camping promotes crime and exploitation (targeting both homeless and non-homeless people) and degrades public space. Does anyone disagree with that?
“The system of allowing unregulated homeless camping promotes crime and exploitation and degrades public space”
I agree wholeheartedly that it is a disaster, a mess, dreadful, inhumane, beneath us.
But: What does disallowing unregulated homeless camping look like? What are we hoping/expecting our city council to do with the hard cases? Building more prisons has been our approach since Richard Nixon and it hasn’t exactly delivered. If we spend all our money to lock up the hard cases (which I believe costs something like $60K/yr/person) what do we do with the merely homeless?
It is a sincere question. In the short run I’m not aware of any realistic strategy, but I’m eager to learn.
Camping shall be allowed in $This.Location between the hours of _ and _. Appropriate public safety staff shall be present. All personal possessions must be removed during other hours. Violators subject to mandatory transport to $Other.Locations for other hours.
No, you cannot store your personal stuff on public property.
No, you cannot establish long-term residency on public property.
Sorta like some of us think about car storage.
The first step is de-normalizing it, which is what I’m seeing take shape on these forums and in other places from fed up Portlanders. The term ‘houseless’ applied to campers is problematic because it implies shared public space is the home of campers. I don’t think it’s in the community’s interest to concede our shared space to campers for their private use.
Also, as I noted in my comment above, Portlanders need to stop treating homeless campers like pets. Stop delivering pizza and furniture and supplies to the camps. This encourages camping and creates an overall atmosphere of over-the-top tolerance that can be (and is) abused. Instead, donate your time, money and materials to the agencies who really understand how to help (I donate to Sisters of the Road and Portland Women’s Shelter).
The other responsibility Portlanders need to take on themselves is acknowledging there’s a problem. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a homeless-hater to do this. People become homeless often through no fault of their own, but while they are homeless, the communities they live in carry them. I agree this is our responsibility, but it’s perfectly reasonable for us to set limits on where homeless people can and can’t choose to live and under what conditions.
On the legal side, camps in high-traffic public space and natural areas need to be cleared and recleared until people stop camping there. This is an up-front investment we wouldn’t need to make now if we’d stayed on top of this in the first place. There’s a reason Dignity Village is out in the middle of a field near the airport. This is the type of space it’s reasonable to give away for people to live on for free–and Dignity Village has rules that are strictly enforced to keep it a civil place. Camps should have rules, for conduct, waste management, health and safety–benefits all of us should be assured of in a civilized society. As I mentioned in another post above, parks, trails and natural areas are popular with campers because they are the nicest places to camp, not because they are the only places to camp.
Like many here have said, I don’t have all the answers, but I think the above would be a good start.
Oops-correction! That’s Clackamas Women’s Shelter, not Portland Women’s Shelter. They do great work–check them out!
“I’m disappointed but not surprised to see so many commenters getting defensive.”
Not picking a fight, Hall, but this is a generalization, too. What you may be reading as defensiveness is, rather, completely understandable frustration, based on related experience. It does not read as defensiveness to me. Your response and the response of other self-appointed homeless advocates here actually reads more as defensiveness to me.
“This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to make generalizations about homeless people being dangerous. It doesn’t mean that we get to assert that our needs for comfort and safety are more important than homeless people’s needs for comfort and safety. And it’s imperative that cyclists who do have the privilege of some stability (in housing, income, mental health) take extra care to appreciate the more extreme hardships faced by the vast majority of homeless people, and to have our opinions and policy stances reflect that.”
It’s a generalization to say that generalizations are being made by others here about homeless people being dangerous. I haven’t seen anyone here make that generalization. Instead, they are taking pains to point out, again and again, “not all homeless people” and are focusing on those who are committing crimes. There is real evidence to support recognition of this existing problem. It is a huge and unjust and inaccurate leap to generalize that people calling out the problem are making generalizations “about homeless people being dangerous.” It’s also supercilious.
p.s…have you visited the folks who live in Lents? These are lower-income, blue-collar people–the working poor, many–who’ve been living in hell for the past several years, due directly to the camps/campers. They have documented the affects of the camps on them, personally, and that involves police documentation, too.
Since I adore you too I am going to have to go back and re-read these comments again. Because I too heard (thought I heard) what Hall and several others are suggesting.
For years here in the comments as soon as the subject of, e.g., bike theft comes up, many commenters pile onto the homeless with lots of angry, vicious words flung in their general direction, and receive lots of upvotes. I’ll just speak for myself but I’ve been shocked at the consistently vindictive tone on the part of some vis-a-vis undifferentiated homeless here in the comments.
Here are just two I picked from the archives:
What I am hearing is not (for the most part) anger and viciousness but helpless frustration many years in the making. I can remember when it was seriously not cool to say anything critical about the homeless on bikeportland. There was a time when I would have disapproved of such comments myself (though I got off that bandwagon sooner than many here). We haven’t all become more bigoted since then, the problem has just worn us down. What are people worried is going to happen if anyone says anything negative about homeless campers as long as it ISN’T actual calls for dehumanization and mistreatment? I don’t think you can develop a workable solution to a problem like this if you’re only allowed to say respectful, compassionate and uncritical things.
“What I am hearing is not (for the most part) anger and viciousness but helpless frustration many years in the making.”
I hear both.
But let’s also not forget that people who are homeless don’t have very many outlets, opportunities to share their perspective. So what we hear is a function of who has a voice.
KBOO has a show, though.
And in a number of cases the thieves have turned out to be housed people but there are never apologies or even admissions of error for the disgusting bias direct at houseless folk in the comments on this site.
Why is there never an acknowledgment from you that there are stolen bikes in these camps?
Thank you for posting this. The anti homeless vitriol on bikeportland has left me frustrated many times. Homeless people should be treated with respect. And remember, for the cost of sending cops to police the houseless, we could just give people homes.
Please provide a citation to support your claim that “for the cost of sending cops to police the homeless, we could jut give people homes.”
The entire PPB budget for a year is $211 million. This includes lots more than just sending police to deal with the homeless. For comparison, the Metro housing bond issue just passed was for $653 million and it will not come close to providing adequate housing to “give people homes” for the metro area.
Glad we could give $33+ million of that to Metro for their good deed ♂️
They aren’t treated well? Most of them have access to healthcare, food, clothing, reduced fare trimmer cards/ or tickets, job training, and shelters/tents. That is much better than many, many places.
Did you read KTaylor’s post right above yours? Where, pray tell, is the vitriol in that? Your and others vitriol here toward those you characterize as “anti-homeless” is leaving ME frustrated. It matters not how civil one is, apparently. We’re all “anti-homeless” and spewing “vitriol.” Seriously. Reread these comments!
The homeless issue in Portland has become too great for government to solve the problem alone. Members of neighborhoods need to engage the homeless not ignore them. People need to be out there talking with the needy. Bring peanut butter sandwiches, trashbags, bottles of water. Help pick up trash and sharps. Get to know peoples’ names, why they’re there. Learn what tents are the ones to stay away from and then engage them in numbers so not to be scared. 30-40 people showing up every Friday along parts of the 205 — people will either accept the charity or leave. Engagement is the solution.
Matt, I agree with much of what you are saying here. The reality is that just as it is with folks who have indoor housing, there’s a broad spectrum of personalities outside. It’s completely unfair to describe all of these souls with one brush. I agree that the government is not the only answer. So much of what our outside neighbors need is either unavailable entirely or stretched quite thin among government agencies.
However, your proposal of engagement is not the entire answer either. As a business owner with a large community of houseless outside her door I can tell you that there are those with whom you engage and we’ve had many good neighbor interactions with them. But there is also a few (and often very visible) criminal neighbors and it is very risky to interact with them. The reasons for that risk varies but often they indicate through their threatening words and behavior that they just don’t want to engage. They do not leave, and in my observation they push out the kind and good neighbors we have. Even when engaging through non-contact giving (we provide an open water spigot for 24/7 access) they still are high risk for us to engage with. It’s those folks giving the others’ a bad reputation. In my opinion this group creates on of the the greatest challenges we have for changing the streetscape of tents here in Portland.
I’m talking about an overwhelming presence, a protest/demonstration of sorts. I envision a group of people walking around handing out toiletries, picking up trash, chatting folks up, while a handful of officers remain off to the side to make sure everyone is safe. It would be awkward, but maybe that’s the point.
This belongs exactly where it is: an editorial opinion piece. Hard to follow Andrew’s disingenuous twisting of statements at times. “Trumpian”?? lol
This conversation jumped the shark. I would encourage everyone spending time commenting on this site to step back from the computers and step out into the community to exercise analog advocacy.
The writer of this opinion piece and the author of the Portland Mercury article are trying to conflate a desire for safe and livable neighborhoods with being a anti-homeless which is not the same thing.
If Andrew did some research he would see that at least one of the people who set the trap is in fact homeless: https://bikeportland.org/2018/11/14/i-205-path-booby-trap-suspects-in-court-today-to-face-felony-assault-charges-292117
I live near this area and has been threatened and harassed by campers when riding my bike on the path and have constantly had to dodge needles, trash, tents and objects thrown to make me crash.
Here is the deal. The “unhoused” are doing little to police their own. I am sure someone saw these dirtbags attempt murder on a completely innocent person. Guess what they did? Nothing. The homeless have this odd code where everyone does nothing. So yeah, that’s why they get swept. Is is sad? Yes. But it’s the ONLY WAY to deal with this mass lawlessness. I have zero sympathy.
Now, it’s an issue that Portland is quite flat and NIMBYs refuse to allow tall housing to be be built. The next time you fly over, look down, all new housing is largely flat, or high end. People can’t afford to find anything so..this is the situation.
So when drivers fail to police their kind who daily injure and kill innocents… When white people fail to police their fellow white people who commit daily acts of aggressions small and large…
So a community with a code protecting miscreants is not worthy of dignity?
This is an issue that is happening everywhere, not just Portland. It should be a conversation that also takes place regionally, statewide as well as nationally.
Oakland, CA is experimenting with providing Tuff Shed units, portable toilets, wash stations and weekly shower service. They’re creating a safe place. This seems like a positive step in helping people down on their luck.
White people are the biggest group of self policers by far.
Uh, wait, what?!
Dignity and destroying public land is not the same thing. And, actually no, Dignity is not a civil right.
You were saying that because the community along the bike trails did not turn in the offenders, the area should be “swept”. Is this an accurate summary of what you believe?
The area should be swept, in the most dignified mannner.
The best part of the written word is that, it’s all there.
Do you hold other communities to the same standard?
It seems to me that some of the drug use, criminality, and occasional violence associated with people sleeping rough is associated with the hopelessness of their individual situation and what they see as the uncaring attitude of everyone they meet. For instance, I rarely if ever give money to people who ask for it because I work in public and just don’t have that much money. How do they see me?
Nevertheless I grew up listening to a preacher, not by choice, and I still remember the parts about the beggars, and what it means to be a neighbor, and the way to “enter the Kingdom” (KJV) was to sell your stuff and feed the poor. I make no pretense of being a Christian–Christian and love being about the most-trammeled words in the English language–but I still feel bad about this.
What to do? One solution adopted by friends of mine was to pick one person they saw on the street, acknowledge them, talk to them, give them their change, in general be a neighbor to them. There weren’t burner phones then but that’s another possibility, give somebody a phone and take their calls.
The safety net is impersonal, rule-bound and bureaucratic. It’s no wonder that many people sleep rough when they could be indoors in a bed. I wouldn’t want to listen to somebody preach for food, or ditch my dog for a shelter bed, or leave my lover because couples weren’t allowed. Some people don’t want to be supported but could we give them a ladder to climb up? A person who is acknowledged as a human being has a harder time hating.
If I had to fly a sign I would probably hate you all.
You really feel superior with your socratic method of we questioning. Pretty easy to do when you weren’t strangled on a public path. Did you read the other comments? People don’t feel safe and you don’t care.
Bottom line, the ppb and the council need to take a zero tolerance stance against living on or near the paths. $1000 fine and a felony. It’s got to stop.
“Bottom line, the ppb and the council need to take a zero tolerance stance against living on or near the paths. $1000 fine and a felony. It’s got to stop.”
You are being ridiculous. This country is so stuck in a punishment mindset we can’t even see how counterproductive it is. We already have a higher percentage of our population locked up than any other country, and now you are asserting that we need to criminalize being homeless.
I never really took you for a law-and-order type. Again, would you support this zero-tolerance approach to public safety in other communities?
The stealing of peace and public land is a criminal act. Invite them to your house if you feel slow Inclined. However, I applaud your faux outrage and concern. Again, let them camp out on it in the lanes or on the Hawthorne and tell at people as they drive by. See how long the cops tolerate it
Put up a few signs stating the penalties and watch them scatter .
Can we all just agreee that the situation is sad. What happened to the bicyclist was sad. Assuming anyone doing violent acts along the path is automatically homeless, is sad. The trash, misery, drug use, and unemployment is all sad. Not feeling safe on the path is sad. Government’s failure is sad. What’s generally suppose to be a happy-positive thing for a city (more bike paths) is the opposite in our case and that makes me very sad…
Lots of things we tolerate every day are or could easily be construed as criminal acts.
I think you are the one bringing your outrage in here.
All I’m saying is that we would do well as a society to keep this in perspective. What you are proposing may seem like a simple solution to you, but some of the main reasons we are where we are is that people in the past have pursued similarly I’ll-advised punitive ‘solutions’ which then predictably begat other, sometimes worse, problems.
What other mythical unicorn community are you referring to? Another mythical lawless community?
You wrote: “The homeless have this odd code where everyone does nothing. So yeah, that’s why they get swept. Is is sad? Yes. But it’s the ONLY WAY to deal with this mass lawlessness. I have zero sympathy” then later advocated for a zero tolerance policy towards campers, with punishing fines for minor transgressions.
Where we agree is that communities should help the police investigate crimes, and turn in criminals in their midst.
Where we disagree is that we should punish entire communities for not doing so, using the police to harass and punish groups for the misdeeds of individuals, or that we should take a hardcore law-and-order zero-tolerance approach in communities you (or those in positions of power) would deem “lawless”.
I would also disagree with applying zero-tolerance policing to unicorns. I just don’t think that makes much sense.
Disagree away to your hearts content Kitty. Once it’s unsafe for kids or women to ride along public paths, my liberal sentiment is gone. Long gone. At that point, it’s time to kick tents down and take names. People can move on somewhere else far away from the public paths. Oregon is a big and open place. This isn’t the first incident, and won’t be the last if we allow this lawlessness to go on.
Has it occurred to you—who claim to be concerned about the safety of women and children—that the present situation is considerably less safe for homeless women and homeless children, long before you come along and ‘kick their tents down’?
Or are you only concerned with the safety of women and children who don’t live in tents?
I guess we’ll have to disagree. I will continue to advocate for the rights and dignity of individuals, and against using the sort of identity groupings the far left and far right are so fond of using to erase individual voices, experience, and perspective.
You should really find a woman with kids in those tents, by the paths. Then, when you do, ask them why they were denied housing at least temporary.
Let me know when you do. Besides, you cant let one provably dangerous situation exist for the lawful because a hypothetical situation exists from the lawless.
And being for this lawless situation, or an advocate for it, does not bode well for cycling. At some point, you gotta draw a line.