Reading the fail meter

North Park Blocks, Portland, yesterday.

There's a new report out on how many people are living on Multnomah County's streets. The official count is a little over 3,000. I'd be awfully suspicious of that number – even Dan Ryan, the Portland City Council's fall guy on homelessness, is unhappy with how the count was taken, and everybody agrees it's an undercount. But it's noteworthy that even on the official books, the tally is up around 50 percent over three years ago.

God bless 'em, the kids at the Merc had some additional numbers that the other media outlets left out:

While the number of shelter beds in the county has increased since 2019, the number of people using those shelter beds has stayed stagnant. Prior to the pandemic, the county had 1,350 year-round shelter beds, some of which could accommodate more than one person at a time. In 2019, 1,459 people were counted using shelters—approximately 36 percent of the homeless population at the time. In March 2022, the county had more than 1,600 beds and sleeping pods available and 1,485 people—about 28 percent of the homeless population—were using them at the time of the count.

Interesting. There are 1,600 beds and "pods" around, with 1,485 people in them. Even if the occupants are one to a bed (and as they note, some of the beds have more than a single person in them), that's 115 open spaces. So doesn't that mean that if the city tries to sweep a tent camp with 30 people in it, it's got a bed for everybody in that camp? What's the problem?

Until the shelters are full, it's hard to see how enforcing the laws against street camping are criminalizing poverty. Do we have to have a couple of thousand shelter beds ready, that nobody wants to sleep in, before we can start forcing the campers inside or onto a Greyhound bus?

Anyway, when your shocked out-of-town friends and relatives ask how many street campers, it's over 3,000. Probably well over.


  1. Well it is getting close to camping season and with gas prices what they are, maybe a local just decided to have a “staycation” instead of heading out to the mountains? Either that or they are planning on opening a sidewalk BBQ stand.

    1. When I saw the photo, I thought an enterprising homeless person might be starting a pop-up food stand.

  2. U Know, I was thinking about what we object to when it comes to camping or not?
    We don't want fires, don't want crime, don't want poop/sanitation issues /cholera, don't want the public right of way impeded or hazardous to traverse or impassible, don't want 'ugly' tents.

    But tents or rest villages aren't inherently objectionable?
    Can't be worse than all those scam storage facilities?
    How much would it be to just declare eminent domain/publicly hang or execute the investors, lobbyists & boards & plumb them & take them over for temporary residents that have gotten clean & sober & can hold a job?

    Its like people need a jumping off pad, community, rules & infrastructure & some opportunity/community & some of them need to be locked up/dried out/return to sanity?

    Near me, a sound wall for the highway that has other functions that are useful (attached to other buildings, catches tipping/falling trees, glass bricks to let light thru, warm bat caves for bats to eat insects over the creeks in SW here) & some well managed rest villages wouldn't be the worst thing as long as it wasn't permanent or too anonymous / the neighborhood got a say & the occupants had a sponsor/quasi assigned parole officer? IDK that we trust the city or metro or the NGOs to do that?
    It's sorta like you need something between the local church (or similar under-used place for some days) & parole officer that circulates to smaller broken up rest villages neighbors have a gaze on a bit that's not *too* urban for the house-less that have jobs/live in their cars on an embankment or something that's not *too* urban w/some green space & privacy?

    Like, would I mind some staycation tents in parks & storage bunkers if they were cleaned up every morning w/o garbage with showers & bathrooms that were really well cleaned up with a basic meeting hall/soup kitchen w/sufficient parking/no zombie cars? Not necessarily, depending? I might even go camping in such a park nearby on the right night haha?

    But lack of well thought out rules & infrastructure is kinda the problem/part of how we got here...

  3. I do kind of want it to look crappy here for out of towners, but without prices cratering for weasels to buy stuff cheaper.
    I sort of want recent monied californians/residents to F off and go visit their people elsewhere rather than they come here...too many CA plates once it gets nicer warms up...I hope it rains & is only a 6-8 week summer & CA visitors to recent invadors/transplants hate it and swear off coming here forever, hopefully!

    But I hate tourists & RV warriors clogging up our roads & parks & they're all a liability for me, really?
    If there are fewer of them/they all get lost, I don't care?

    If we get rid of the basketball stadium/pro sports ball, that's fine too!
    If we stop paying for new stadiums or other gimmicks, great!
    Luke was waxing on nostalgic about going to see big name bands at memorial Collesium in the '70s...spare me!

    Obviously it's too late now, and I like that they use the Coliseum for lots of stuff (HS commencements, proms, events, ice floor), but it was built in a relative time of plenty & did wreck a community that was there with taxpayer money (I think the feds helped a bit on that one along with the hospital).

    I also find it less overtly hideous than the Paul Allen new arena monstrocity...tho luxury boxes are a cash cow & older places didn't have those & I don't think he bilked us that horribly for that hideous thing other than the place being dead/useless & a crime vortex empty & traffic/transit fustercluck near a 2 lane I5 bottleneck when full?

    1. His “new” arena is 25 years old.

  4. Hey I have an idea. Let's ban camping and see what happens. This experiment has gone on way too long and we know it is only getting worse.


Post a Comment

The platform used for this blog is awfully wonky when it comes to comments. It may work for you, it may not. It's a Google thing, and beyond my control. Apologies if you can't get through. You can email me a comment at, and if it's appropriate, I can post it here for you.