Deb and Ted's excellent deal

Here's a story that says a lot about the paralysis at Portland City Hall and Multnomah County when it comes to the homeless disaster currently playing out on the city's streets and in its parks: The politicians are making a big deal out of the fact that they've pushed some dollar amounts around on a spreadsheet, as if that's doing something to address the ongoing human catastrophe:

Following weeks of intense negotiating, city and county leaders have agreed to spend $38 million to expand the Portland region’s homeless shelter capacity and increase the number of campsite cleanups and removals.

City and county officials discovered last month that the two jurisdictions would receive roughly $90 million more than expected due to an unanticipated surge in business tax revenue. On Monday, County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan said that they planned to use roughly half of that surplus for homeless services, earmarking millions for outreach teams, trash pickup and new shelter beds.

“This joint package of investments demonstrates our shared sense of urgency,” Kafoury said during a Monday press conference.

More like the shared lack of urgency. And lack of much sense of any kind. Weeks and weeks they had to "negotiate" with each other. They are mismanagement personified.

Besides, $38 million is a drop in the bucket. We are now living under a Metro upper-middle-class income tax that is supposed to raise more than $200 million a year, maybe as mch as $250 million a year, for homeless services. Why on earth would less than one fifth of one year's receipts under that tax be worth crowing about?

Well, you say, the Metro money won't be here until April. True, but the city borrows against future taxes all the time. If the powers that be had a clue as to what they're going to do about the tent squatters, they could get a short-term advance of the tax revenue from Wall Street in a couple of weeks. But do Wheeler and Kafoury even have an actual comprehensive plan? They'll always say they don't have enough money, but do they even know what they'd do if they had it? I doubt it. 

In any event, what the story shows is that Kafoury and Wheeler have been in their jobs too long. They actually believe that when they conclude one of their little turf deals, it magically produces results on the streets. Far from it. The bureaucrats and assorted nonprofit creatures feasting at the trough of the homeless industrial complex will eat through $39 million in no time flat. We'll be lucky if two dozen tents come down (likely, just moved) and 100 needles get picked up.

One frustrated business guy from the inner east side summed the situation up bluntly:

Concerned businesses told the council they want an improved 911 system, an expansion of the Portland Street Response team, more housing solutions for homeless and policies that actually move them off the streets.

[David] Wolf [president of Rodda Paints] said he’s skeptical the future holds any tangible outcomes.

“I don’t care how many hundreds of little, tiny homes they build,” Wolf said. “It doesn’t move the needle. I love the ideas; they don’t work, so this place is getting worse and worse.”

Meanwhile, this recent article in the Atlantic is getting a lot of attention. It's about how meth has evolved to become a much more vicious destroyer of human life than it ever was before. And of the thousands of people living in tents on Portland streets and roads, many are meth addicts. Maybe a quarter to half of them. Eventually their lives are hollowed out by the drug to the point where they won't even know what they're doing as they're stabbing a tourist or burning down somebody's house or business.

Portland, Oregon, began seeing the flood of meth around 2013. By January 2020, the city had to close its downtown sobering station. The station had opened in 1985 as a place for alcoholics to sober up for six to eight hours, but it was unequipped to handle people addicted to P2P meth. “The degree of mental-health disturbance; the wave of psychosis; the profound, profound disorganization [is something] I’ve never seen before,” Rachel Solotaroff, the CEO of Central City Concern, the social-service nonprofit that ran the station, told me. Solotaroff was among the first people I spoke with. She sounded overwhelmed. “If they’re not raging and agitated, they can be completely noncommunicative. Treating addiction [relies] on your ability to have a connection with someone. But I’ve never experienced something like this—where there’s no way in to that person.”

The Kafourys and Wheelers of the world would like us to believe that our street problems can be solved if only we build more housing projects. And of course, their friends, the usual suspects, are standing by to slap up the cr-apartments.

But a lot of the people making Portland the mess it is today are drug addicts who can't live in the projects. They can't even live in mass shelters or managed camps, because they're too far gone. Until something is done for them, or done about them, all the billions spent on homelessness aren't going to get Portland out of the woods.

It's going to take expensive treatment, and even that won't work for everybody. Detox in jail would be the obvious option for the rest, but the voters of Oregon have ruled out jail for possession. And so the addicts just roam around until they do some serious harm to somebody else. Then maybe you'll get a cop. Maybe.