Order Rev Nat's Cider Today

Comment of the Week: Moderate position needed on safe cycling and homelessness issue

Posted by on May 15th, 2020 at 2:46 pm

“If we want Portland to be taken seriously as a pedestrian and bike-friendly city, we need people to feel safe walking and biking, wherever they may be.”

Riders navigate around a person’s tent on the I-205 multi-use path. (Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Our latest Comment of the Week is the first one ever to include a song lyric.

It came from Shimran George, who calmly laid out what they see as a problem with our local debate around homelessness.

On Tuesday we shared a story about four north Portland neighborhood association’s who’ve begun an advocacy campaign to pressure the City of Portland (and their fellow neighbors – housed and unhoused) to think differently about the homelessness crisis. I elevated this news because one of their short-term recommendations was to clear campers from local off-street paths like the Peninsula Crossing Trail. People living on paths has become a big problem in Portland, with many crucial connections in the bike network becoming de facto closed as a result.

Shimran’s comment came in as a reply to another reader who suggested one solution might be to fence of multi-lane arterials like SE Powell Boulevard to create camping space that doesn’t block scarce bikeways.

Here’s Shimran’s comment:

While I seem to agree that liberal policies don’t seem to alleviate the problem and seem blatantly naive, the conservative policies generally fall along the lines of ignoring the problem, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Both sides look at the issues too cleanly and decide to promote simple narratives that suit their needs often to the detriment of the people most in need of help.

The overly liberal position would make you believe that homelessness is a direct result of the backwash of capitalism, and that they’re all on the streets because their landlord jacked up the rent or a medical bill put them there, and often delivers too much compassion. The overly conservative position on homelessness is that they are all drug addicts who made choices that resulted in them being there, and shows no compassion at all. Neither idea is fully true, and both sides need to accept that each position has a sliver of truth and the reality can be heavily individual dependent, and oftentimes messy. I wish we had officials that looked at it logically, and wanted to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Not to make generalizations about a group of people, but I do think alcohol/drug use is a common theme among many homeless, and should guide our approach to solving this issue in the forms of robust treatment centers and counseling, not be used to simply dismiss these people. People turn to alcohol/drugs for many reasons, and this country is perfectly fine ignoring mental health and societal alienation that often prevent people from getting better or trying to reintegrate into society.

Similarly, I feel it’s unfair/dehumanizing to always treat people as victims, and not setting some baseline expectations and respect along with giving people agency. And it’s bizarre policy that a city that wants to promote cycling and walking is ok with multi-use paths and sidewalks being blocked. If we want Portland to be taken seriously as a pedestrian/bike friendly city, we need people to feel safe walking and biking, wherever they may be.

*”Too much love will kill you
Just as sure as none at all
It’ll drain the power that’s in you
Make you plead and scream and crawl”

*[Lyrics to the song Too Much Love Will Kill You by Brian May]

This is a very challenging topic that is nearly impossible to debate productively in an open online forum like this. I’m grateful that so many of you shared your opinions. I hope this comment thread helped move the conversation forward.

Thanks to everyone who participates in our comment section. We value your voices. Remember, if you see a great comment, please just reply and write “comment of the week” so I can easily search for them.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

39
Leave a Reply

avatar
14 Comment threads
25 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
19 Comment authors
Matt S.William Thomasmark smithMaddHatterAlan 1.0 Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
dwk
Guest
dwk

Make tent camping illegal in the city.
It was illegal before Hales let it go and it has continued.
I think houseless people were served better before they got to hide in tents.
They sought out services and were much easier to find and work with.
The population went up when the economy improved and camping was allowed.
Make tent camping illegal. The city has garages etc, they can use to set up and basically triage
this group of people to find out what the needs are.
I read Iannarones Houseless statement, the same old “we need affordable housing”, blah blah blah.
First you need to find and help and figure out how to even get them in housing.
With the tent camps, they do want to, and you cannot make them.
You can’t force people into housing or treatment, but you can take away some options so
they might consider it.

dwk
Guest
dwk

If you walked into a Houseless camp and offered a room for $100.00 a month, how many takers even with guaranteed help would you get?
I am not sure, I doubt Wheeler or Iannarone know, but I think we should find out?

dwk
Guest
dwk

When I ride through houseless camps in their tents I have no idea who is inside?
Families? Kids? Abused spouses? I shutter some times when I ride through them.
This is not compassion. I am ashamed.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Technically, camping is already banned, but only on City of Portland public property and right-of-way:
14A.50.020 Camping Prohibited on Public Property and Public Rights of Way.
A. As used in this Section:
1. “To camp” means to set up, or to remain in or at a campsite, for the purpose of establishing or maintaining a temporary place to live.
2. “Campsite” means any place where any bedding, sleeping bag, or other sleeping matter, or any stove or fire is placed, established, or maintained, whether or not such place incorporates the use of any tent, lean-to, shack, or any other structure, or any vehicle or part thereof.
B. It is unlawful for any person to camp in or upon any public property or public right of way, unless otherwise specifically authorized by this Code or by declaration by the Mayor in emergency circumstances.
C. The violation of this Section is punishable, upon conviction, by a fine of not more than $100 or by imprisonment for a period not to exceed 30 days or both.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

As our current pandemic should teach us, there is never any point in making any act illegal if government already knows it cannot enforce its own laws, be it from constitutional conflicts or from a lack of resources.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

So legalize speeding and bike theft?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

It’s a bit like legalizing marijuana and jay walking, isn’t it? A resignation to a total lack of enforcement?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

ODOT land within the city is technically part of the state and not the city – which applies to the I-205 & I-84 paths but probably the Willamette esplanades as well, so powers of enforcement are kinda iffy within the city; Multnomah County may have better jurisdiction. The Springwater Corridor is a huge 200-foot wide legal gray area. The City maintains and patrols its part, but doesn’t really own it.

Karstan
Subscriber
Karstan

I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as “too much compassion.” And the fact someone can posit that with a straight face and be taken seriously is depressing.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

How do you differentiate “too much compassion” from “enabling”?

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Karstan said there was no such thing as too much compassion, so your question doesn’t make sense. But I’ll answer it anyway… “too much compassion” (in the sense that I imagine Shimran used it) is “enabling”. There is a line between compassion and enabling, though. If you’re going to help someone, you need to know what their goals are and then figure out how you and they can work towards reaching those goals. And if the goal is “get more meth” then maybe that takes the form of helping to find better (less harmful) goals.

Enabling is passive and apathetic: you stand aside — or worse provide negative assistance — while someone pursues harmful ends. Compassion is active and involved: you are taking action to seek understanding and/or assist. The target of your compassion has agency, bounded by what’s not harmful to themselves or those around them. Viewed through that lens, I think it’s reasonable to claim there’s no such thing as too much compassion.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

Unless you are being manipulated.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

It’s the boundary between being kind and being a chump.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

I know right. Compassion is easy when you’re spending other people’s money. They will never run out.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

You can be compassionate without spending money. You can understand someone else’s plight and needs even if you can’t “fix” their situation.

Tom
Guest
Tom

I don’t see the problem with managed camps as transitional housing. The pallet and tent ones near the Hawthorne bridge ramp were created pretty quickly. With the savings from not having to continually cleanup camps alone the city should be able to replace the camp tents soon with some equivalent of tuff sheds, which would be more attractive and secure. There seems to be plenty of unused parking lots around that would work well.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Whenever I see a comment of “the City ought to do this or ought to do that”, I’m reminded of a local city council campaign rally I attended in East Portland about 10 years ago. The candidate was asked a lot of questions and, rather unusually, was very knowledgeable about how Portland was (and still is) run. People would ask about schools – no, that’s not a city function, it’s up to the local public school district and there are 9 of them that touch Portland. Drug addition services – no, that’s not a city function either, that goes under Multnomah County Health and Human Services. Maintaining the I-205 bike path – no, not the city, that’s ODOT, but the County cleans the garbage for them and patrols the path. Rebuild outer Powell Blvd – no, the city can help a bit, but it’s really up to ODOT. The poor bus service – Trimet, I’m afraid, not the city. Apartment garbage service is poor – bug Metro. My sewer stinks – yeah, that’s the city, where’s the stink?

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Does anybody really think the city truly cares about either the homeless problem or bike infrastructure? They respond to your griping. That’s it. When the griping gets loud enough they act like they care. Otherwise they are not proactive at all.

If Ted Wheeler had tents, drug dealing, and a bike chop shop operating on the corner by his $1.5 million dollar Goose Hollow home, trust me, it would get dealt with FAST.

Same with Eudaly and her dismissive attitude towards camping on our MUPS. If she had to dodge broken glass, needles, trash piles, and the occasional addict taking a swing at her as she rode by I’m sure we’d see some action. But she doesn’t ride and it’s pretty obvious.

So keep acting like abused animals and keep wandering back to these so-called “leaders” after they’ve kicked you in the teeth and blame YOU for the problem.

Alon K.
Guest
Alon K.

Below is an excellent article about homelessness and how to solve much of it, as should be the priority of the world’s leading country (in money, the number of billionaires, number of gadgets and consumption) if we truly are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/15/opinion/homeless-crisis-affordable-housing-cities.html?searchResultPosition=2
I know that this does not address the specific issue raised about cycling but we do need to look at the big picture.

Nicaraguan Rosario Murillo, Sandinista fighter and poet, who has lived and fought during times of dictatorship, foreign military intervention, and revolution, hailed in “I’m Going to Plant a Heart in the Earth” what is possible:

A heart.
that won’t leave some to one side
and others on the floor in fractions.
a heart that has no country
that knows no borders
a heart that will never be fired.
a heart, unnerving, unnamable
something simple and sweet
a heart that has loved.

A healthy rest of spring to all.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

There are some good nuggets in the article, but if the starting point is that we must spend money in such quantity that only the federal government could possibly afford it, then I’m afraid we’ll be waiting a long time for progress on a solution.

(And paying for it by killing the most popular and most loved tax deductions is just not realistic.)

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Are the downvoters to this downvoting because they just don’t like the article? Because they think the federal government will solve our homeless problem with money? Or why?

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

I wish we had officials that looked at it logically, and wanted to make a real difference in people’s lives.

I find it hard to believe that officials don’t want to make a real difference and aren’t at least trying to look at it logically. I don’t follow Portland’s local politics that closely, but most of the public officials I do know are well-intended.

To move the discussion along then, what officials have you talked to, and what did they say? Have you seen public statements or explanations of rationale by officials that are especially poignant examples of either good or bad thinking? For the election, have any candidates shared approaches to this that you think are particularly good? I can’t imagine nobody’s talking about the issue, given that there’s an expensive ballot measure about it.

Bobcycle
Guest
Bobcycle

The photo attached to article does not fully illustrate what cyclists are facing out there. It appears to show riding side by side With room to spare. There are camp areas where a narrow single path is all that is available to Navigate through the camp. In the past, I have experienced riding through camps where it was required to duck under tarps that went across paths. I have seen areas so scary I’ve turned around and changed my route. As far as cleaning up camps along Peninsular Crossing, while I don’t live adjacent to that path, I have ridden it recently and have not found any tents that encroach onto the pathway. So for me, not a problem.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

It seems like we are always trying to reinvent the wheel. Lets just look back at a time when we did not have homeless camps everywhere ( or people sleeping in doors, etc.) and see what it was that we did differently. Back in the 1970’s there were no homeless camps anywhere in town, so what has changed now that we are a richer and more advanced society. Is it that we closed down large state run institutions for some folks? ( open em back up then). Is it that we shut down all the cheap transient hotels to make Air BnB rooms and such, well with the “Rona” we will have plenty of excess capacity to recreate such places. I know some people think it was barbaric back then but I think it was better than what we have now, and darn if we didn’t have better music.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Now we’re dealing with meth and prescription drugs/heroin. You can camp on Powell, collect cans in the area, return them to the Winco bottle return, purchase meth on the corner and buy your glass pipe at the market on Division and 82nd — all within 1/2 mile radius. It’s a self-sustain drug utopia.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

But can I get Chicken Nuggets?

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Even better! There’s a KFC on the corner of 82nd and Powell.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

What changed, is we stopped letting people starve.

Living where you can afford to live, and supporting yourself are basic concepts.

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes

You mean back in the 1970s when we found out how horribly our mental institutions were run and started shutting them down. Back in the 70s when we started the war on drugs leading to the highest incarceration rate in the world? Back in the 70s when you could afford to work and pay your way through college without having to put yourself in lifelong debt. When you could buy a house in your 20s working some job you started out of high school. When the middle class was its strongest before we had a billionaire class that owned 90% of everything. When our government wasn’t in debt and increasing it almost every year for the last 35 years.

I don’t think we’ll be going back to that anytime soon the people from the 70s gave it all away for some reason. They did make some good music though.

Charles Ross
Guest
Charles Ross

Portland is full of homeless people because it offers services and anonymity. Are there people laying around on the street in Burns, Pendleton, Tri-Cities, etc shooting up, begging, crapping up the place?
I don’t think so.
There will never be a solution that gets the homeless off the street without a buy-in from the homeless.
I think the ‘housed’ need to think of themselves and vote for candidates that have 0 tolerance for what is going on.
“Make tent camping illegal in the city”. Enforce drug laws, using and selling,

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

How in the world camping on MUP’s flies in Portland is beyond me. Can you camp on any roadway in Portland complete with tarps overhanging the road?

This isn’t about being compassionate. This is about making sure EVERYONE can freely moved on the pittance of roads meant for walking, rolling..biking…etc. Please stop giving up your rights to move freely to enable a group (albeit a minority) who promote anarchy.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

I’m up-voting this 100 times

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

That minority seems pretty firmly in control of things though.

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

Prepare to be privilege shamed.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

It flies because most of the camps are not on city right-of-way, but on state land that happens to pass through the city. It flies because Portland taxpayers are not (yet) willing to increase their own taxes sufficiently to pay for the increased policing they need for a city of 650,000, let alone county and state policing. It flies because Portland residents tolerate and even encourage local car owners, food trucks, and delivery companies to selfishly occupy large tracts of public right-of-way with large inert 18-foot by 7-foot chunks of steel and plastic all day, for months on end, blocking all other users. But yes, it flies because Portlanders love to aggressively passively complain, but hate to actively actually do anything about it. They like to “Keep Portland Weird”, part of that local mojo. If you don’t like it, leave.

(Leave is what I eventually did after delaying my departure for 17 years.)

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

Word on the street Gresham doesn’t have a camping problem on multi use paths. How did they do that….are their taxes that much higher?

TonyH
Guest
TonyH

This discussion reminds me of an old comparison of conservatives and liberals. A person is drowning 50′ from shore. A conservative will throw the poor person 25′ of rope. A liberal will throw 75′, and then let go.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/toolkit/

Loads of info about homelessness in Portland, including the city’s policies (enforcement, Anderson v. Portland lawsuit, Covid-19 policies, etc.), up-to-date maps of reported tent camps and vehicle parks, weekly clean-up reports, places to volunteer, video about the “One Point of Contact Campsite Reporting System,” and more. Very informative!

William Thomas
Guest
William Thomas

A city that is committed to biking and walking should insure that these acts are doable and safe to the bicyclist and pedestrian users. My experience living in the Lents neighborhood is that while laudable talking points, walking and/or cycling in my neighborhood are neither doable or safe.

92nd Ave from the I 205 overpass to SE Flavel is only barely safe to walk or ride. The bike path is covered with glass and debris and both sides, and the sidewalks are lettered with garbage and debris. The Springwater Corridor sports feces and glass, and I won’t ride the I 205 bike path due to it’s lack of cleanliness again due to glass and litter.

Families with children put their children at risk with needles left out in the open along these public spaces. Camping in public spaces with no access to water, toilets and garbage collection should not be allowed. Car campers and RV’s should also be located in parking lots with sanitary facilities provided by the city and county. The onus of this public problem lies with our leaders!