Kampgrounds of Portlandia

The tent camping all over Portland has gotten completely out of control. Check out this scene, outside the Williams Sonoma store on Northwest 23rd Avenue. The tents are attached to eye loops drilled into the sidewalk.

Of course, compared with the squalor you see in a lot of other places in town, this scene is pretty tame. But if it's like this on chi-chi 23rd, you can imagine what the rest of the city looks like.

I read here that the city estimates that it will take two years to clean up all the filth left behind from camping. But that's two years from the time they start, and who are they kidding? There is no political will to start. To the contrary, if they ever do start, there will be protesters throwing bricks at them.

It's amazing that the "houselessness" industry has such a lock on the local politicians and public opinion. But that's the way it is. Happy camping!


  1. Jack: Have you heard about the adopt a block program for concerned citizens to help Sam Adams clean up and maintain blocks within Portland that need a little attention to detail. Maybe you could encourage your readers to join the cause as a temporary solution. The status of homelessness cannot be criminalized. Portland needs to provide places for people to prop up their "homes" or mini houses before shooing folks off the sidewalk. Only when Portland steps up to the plate for its inhabitants that are at the bottom of the wealth inequality ladder will authorities be able to legally move people off the sidewalks and such. The wealth inequality issue is right in our face and no one likes it, much less the horrendous trash issues that come along with it.

    1. Some of it is wealth inequality, but not all. A lot of it is mental illness and addiction.

      I'm not sure there's a constitutional right to pitch a tent. There certainly isn't one to pitch one on a public sidewalk.

      Portland does not have to be a regional magnet for homeless people. But it will take some clever thinkers to figure out how to be humane to those we have without increasing the volume of the problem. And I'm not seeing any such thinkers in any of the bobblehead collectionsthat make up state or local government in these parts.

    2. Then it sounds like its time for you to step up to the plate.

    3. I'm too old for all of this. I need a nice town where everything's going to be good for a decade or two. Not a place where nothing will be right for a decade or two.

    4. Unknown: I would hope people would agree with your humane philosophy towards this issue (I certainly do), but I respectfully disagree that wealth inequity drives this problem. This is primarily caused by a combination of addiction, untreated mental health and Oregon's dismal approach on so many levels in addressing these problems. These folks are not a couple of breaks away from getting a job with benefits. They aren't held back because the minimum wage isn't higher, or because of greedy landlords. These are in large part people who can't meaningfully function because a myriad of complicated issues, the least of which is the issue of being able to earn a living wage. Wealth inequity doesn't cause Oregon to make it nearly impossible to commit and get acutely psychotic individuals help. Wealth inequity doesn't drive Oregon's inability to have a robust program for drug treatment for the less fortunate. There will always be haves and have nots. It's a story as old as time. We need to get away from this notion that it's an issue of wealth inequity that drives homelessness or else we will put resources in the wrong places.

  2. This is a great post that hits the nail on the head. Also the comments...

  3. This is my BIG plan. Create a tough love program for those people that can/want to get better and create a work ranch/farm where they get clean, their brain reprogrammed from the drug abuse, and learn to manage their affairs. These types of programs work well with parents that can afford to pay for such a service when their kids go astray.

    As long as we try to just manage people in the same environment with no accountability, there will never be any progress and the situation will continue to get worse. I am pretty sure the current leadership cannot get their head around tough love, but in my mind, the ONLY solution- and could possibly be cheaper to implement.

  4. Recently, we experienced a record number of homeless in Portland. In June, City Council amended policy to address high and low impact deemed encampments to progress on Safe sites. The reported high number of homeless was just over 4,000. The population of Portland is just over 2.1 million. Visually, the homeless encampments may seem more significant as they are out of context with an urban environment.

    Few encampments are absent litter and garbage. “A person commits the crime of offensive littering if the person creates an objectionable stench or degrades the beauty or appearance of property or detracts from the natural cleanliness or safety of property by intentionally discarding or depositing any rubbish, trash, garbage, debris or other refuse upon the land of another without permission of the owner, or upon any public way or in or upon any public transportation facility.” It would seem this law has quietly been dismissed.

    It is commonplace to associate mental illness and drug use with homelessness. As of February 1st, drug use was decriminalized. As drug use is decriminalized, why should we blame it for anything if it is legally allowed. How affected is an individual under the influence of 2 grams of methamphetamine or cocaine, one gram of heroin, or 40 units of LSD or oxycodone?

    I was surprised when the man with the blue covered tent next to Williams Sonoma chastised someone for trying to park next to "his" property, the public sidewalk.

    Laws and ordinances have been made to benefit the public. When they laws are not followed, no matter the reason, someone has made the decision to deem themselves above the public those laws and ordinances were put in place to protect and respect all.

    Please don't decry drug use when the public votes to make it legal. Accept all the consequences drug use brings. Accept that you may fear walking your dog at night because you come in contact with men screaming uncontrollably as they stumble towards you. Accept that if you had to protect yourself, your family, or your dog, you might be at legal risk. Accept that, should your dog protect you, it may taken from you and destroyed.

    Ignore the garbage that an encampment may have within 10 feet of the entrance of your residence because that camper has his/her right to camp in this low impact site 10 feet from your door.

    Currently there is a class action suit in which four campers are suing the city for discarding their property when they didn't leave their posted site and contractors, as they stated at the outset of their notification of the campers, removed everything on the site past the date of when the camp was ordered to be moved. Thus, the overnight camping law and process comes to challenge.

    Is it getting better?

    Are the campers experiencing a better quality of life? Are the other 2.1 million Portland residents? Can we all take claim to public property as the man next to Williams Sonoma can?

    These changes come via our votes so the measure of success is ours as well. With such a talented city, I think we could do better. As I go through the boarded up buildings, I see a city center that has been taken away. I am trying to figure out who took it and who gave it up.

    Do the people who took it want to take care of it? Do the people who gave it up want to take it back?

    As voters, we should grade ourselves on the success of our votes and the decisions of our elected representatives; in such an advanced world, it would seem we could do better for all.

    Next year we plan to spend $150, 000,000 on homelessness. That is about $37,500 per peak level homeless individual. That is the annual income of an individual making $18 per hour. The living wage for an adult in Multnomah County is $18.86. Estimates at the lowest price for a studio apartment in Portland are $605 per month or $7,260 per year. Better than a blue tent next to Williams Sonoma with $30,000 to spare.

    Being so talented, seems we could do better for all.


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