Numbers that don't add up

If you're following Portland's disgraceful street camping crisis, by now you've probably read that many, if not most, of the tents in which the squatters are dwelling were handed out to them for free, directly or indirectly, by the local government, particularly the "joint office" run by Multnomah County. Bringing this startling fact to light is the lawyer for the disabled people who are suing the city for allowing campers to block sidewalks and thus make them inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.

So what are we supposed to take away from this story? A couple of obvious angles jump right out. First and foremost, the government is actively enabling degradation of public safety, destruction of the business climate, and most importantly, self-destruction by the drug-addicted tent-dwellers who refuse to take the indoor shelter being offered them. And second, the government is handing out tents with one hand and then tearing them down in camp sweeps with the other, a classic government waste.

But I think there are a few other questions that need to be asked, and aren't, at least as far as I can see. These flow from the sheer numbers of tents the "joint office" has purchased. According to John DiLorenzo, the troublemaker lawyer busting chops on this –

We counted 22,700 tents purchased between March 26, 2020 and September 6, 2022 at a cost of $1,586,934.15. During the same time period 69,514 tarps were purchased at a cost of $416,053.66.

To put it another way, if there are 5,228 homeless people in the Portland Metro area that is 4.34 tents per person and 13 tarps per person during this 2 year and six month period.

Really? Wow. We're starting to go beyond incompetence here, folks. I'm starting to catch the distinct odor of corruption, aren't you?

And so here are some of the many questions that ought to be asked. If I were a young, ambitious prosecutor at the state or federal levels, I'd sure as heck be asking them:

  • Which vendors profited from all of these purchases, and how were they selected? Were public bidding laws observed? Who was in charge of the purchasing within the local government?
  • How do we know that the tens of thousands of tents and tarps handed out to anybody who showed up claiming to be a "homeless service organization" weren't in fact resold on some market or other? And if so, who did that?
  • How do we know that the 22,700 tents and 69,514 tarps that the taxpayers paid for even exist?
And it's probably even worse than the county has let on so far. As DiLorenzo points out: "There is also a separate acquisition and distribution program undertaken by the County Emergency Operations Center, none of which is included in the documents provided to date. No one person or office seems to have a handle over what is coming in and what is going out."

Unless Portland enjoys some exception to human nature, I'd guess there's stealing going on. Probably a lot of stealing.

And don't expect any bureaucrat in the city or county to get to the bottom of it. They'll be busy covering up the malfeasance. But we have state and federal prosecutors. They need to get in there and take a long, hard look. Will they? This being Portland, Oregon, I couldn't look you in the eye and say yes.

Meanwhile, of course, we need to stop handing out tents and tarps, period. There are shelter beds. The people in the street need to get in them. If we need more shelters and more armed security watching over them, let's get to setting them up. But stop with the tents and the tarps. Immediately. It's a no-brainer.


  1. Serious questions must be answered. Where are the whistleblowers?

  2. I previously thought my view of local corruption was really just the incompetence of low level officials.

  3. I've noticed that for years- brand new tents and tarps. I was assuming that it was the "feel sorry for" crowd, but this makes so much (non)sense.

    As if anybody needs confirmation this is a huge cluster suck- I walked under the freeway on NW Johnson yesterday and there was a small group of "campers" with junk all over and several small fires burning. One of the "campers" was bent over and not moving, being so stoned they were close to paralyzed. On the way home, a "camper" was sprawled on the sidewalk on NW 14th by Hoyt. I shouted at him to see if he was OK and eventually he opened his glazed eyes and gave me a slight smile. I left him to his nirvana. Good times.

  4. I came to Portland for the doughnuts, but stayed for the free tent and legalized drugs.

  5. The city says there are about 2000 homeless people living in tents. Many live in vehicles or RVs.

  6. Here is the link

    1. Here is how it is supposed to work:

      132.020. Selection of grand juries; law applicable to additional jury; when inquiry void. (1) Under the direction of the court, the clerk shall draw names at random from the names of jurors in attendance upon the court until the names of seven jurors are drawn and accepted by the court. The seven persons thus chosen shall constitute the grand jury.

      (2) When the court, in its discretion, considers that one or more additional grand juries is needed for the administration of justice, one or more additional grand juries shall be selected in the manner provided in subsection (1) of this section.

  7. Why doesn’t the local media ask questions and follow up on this. Why do they always wait for a press release.

    1. Well the reporter for OPB is okay with the homeless, and failed to dig into why Oregon Disability Rights didn't take this on. ODR stated they didn't want to pit people with disabilities against each other, but actually they get grant money from the city.

  8. A couple verses from the PDX theme song

    One evening, as the sun went down
    And the jungle fire was burning
    Down the track came a hobo hiking
    And he said, "Boys, I'm not turning
    I'm headed for a land that's far away
    Beside's the crystal fountains
    So come with me, we'll go and see
    The Big Rock Candy Mountains"
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
    There's a land that's fair and bright
    Where the handouts grow on bushes
    And you sleep out every night
    Where the boxcars all are empty
    And the sun shines every day
    On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
    The lemonade springs, where the bluebird sings
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
    All the cops have wooden legs
    And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
    And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
    The farmers' trees are full of fruit
    And the barns are full of hay
    Oh, I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow
    Where the rain don't fall, the wind don't blow
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
    You never change your socks
    And the little streams of alcohol
    Come a-trickling down the rocks
    The brakemen have to tip their hats
    And the railway bulls are blind
    There's a lake of stew, and of whiskey too
    You can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
    The jails are made of tin
    And you can walk right out again
    As soon as you are in
    There ain't no short-handled shovels
    No axes, saws nor picks
    I'm a-goin' to stay where you sleep all day
    Where they hung the jerk that invented work
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

  9. Mind-boggling. You make a very good case for what actions should be taken, but there's so much pushback from people who would call it cruel. Of course, that attitude ignores the needs of another marginalized group, the disabled who need access to sidewalks, never mind that society simply can't function reasonably with such extreme levels of homelessness on the streets.

  10. Here is a really powerful interview with Sam Quinones, author of "Dreamland" and "The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth." His well-informed view is that we will make no progress cleaning up the hellscape unless we incorporate law enforcement into getting people off the streets -- which is very uncomfortable for people who have been fighting the absurd "law enforcement only" approaches for decades. Quinones makes a compelling argument that our philosophy of response to drug addiction was formed in a different time for different threats and that it's different with Meth and Fentanyl because "rock bottom" is death, not arrest or a DUI. As he puts it "meth destroys your ability to act in your own self-interest and fentanyl kills" so people are dying well before they can hit a wall and want to seek help. It's very uncomfortable to think about trying to use law enforcement to sweep tent camps but it does seem that the present problem is orders of magnitude worse than prior drug scourges. Portland seems poised next to a deep abyss and unable to deal with the reality on the ground that is killing people in droves and making the city a dystopia.

    1. Oops. I mean here:

    2. Tough love camps if we really want to help people. They have to get clean and the only way to do that is removal from access. Then once clean, they have to get their brained reprogrammed and learn basic life skills.

    3. You make some very good points. I will check out the podcast. Thanks!

  11. I always say “follow the money”! The homeless and “non profit” industrial complexes are rife with criminality and have been for years!
    Now if only we could locate the off shore bank accounts!

  12. Meanwhile, the city keeps sending me letters demanding I pay their Arts Tax.

    1. pay it with a tent and if you are feeling generous a tarp as well

  13. And the leaf tax and and and….
    And…have you checked out the building fees to do even the most basic remodel or home improvements?
    $45 to install or replace a garbage disposal! And $120 an hour “or any portion there of” to review the installation…and then there is the fee to
    have an inspection…IF you care to follow the law exactly if you do it yourself. A certified licensed plumber has to do that.

  14. Good luck even getting a comment much less an investigation. Someone with connections profited of of this.

  15. It's not just people in wheelchairs, I see people walking their dogs and they have to go out into the street to get around the encampments. Very dangerous!


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