Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Homeless in Portland Oregon in Winter Nov 2009

This was an email message I recieved, that looks like the writer is very well informed on this topic for the Portland area.
I wanted and needed to share this with all the readers of this blog.

Thanks !
Joe Anybody 11.4.09

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 2009 08:05:55
From: GROWS Committee
To: The GROWS Committee
Subject: Lacking Indoor Shelter Options,
Hundreds in Portland Hope to Be Allowed to Camp

*One month and 3.5 inches of cold rain into the rainy season already, AND
The right to simple shelter is still not on the City Council's Agenda this

November 4, 2009
Portland, Oregon

Dear Citizens,

*Should hundreds of cold, damp, un-sheltered Portlanders be allowed to camp
legally - if in an orderly manner, in approved places?*

Is it in the public interest to rationally de-criminalize camping in
Portland, so that record numbers of homeless local people can legally cover
themselves against the wind and rain*?*

Should people be allowed to camp in plain view, rather than have to find
places to hide in order to avoid being randomly roused by police or thugs in
the night*?* (Hiding in order to sleep is dangerous, especially for those
more vulnerable)

Should healthier, less vulnerable adults be allowed to camp out-doors, which
would likely free up indoor shelter spaces this winter for use by more
vulnerable people, who might otherwise be turned away from shelters already
at capacity*?* (Improved triage would not be the intention of "easing the
camping ban," but a likely and increasingly necessary side effect of this).

*Yes. For many reasons, we believe that and easing of **the camping
ban**is clearly in the public interest.

We are calling on all *people of conscience* to help try to convince a
remarkably slow-to-react Portland City Council that a public-emergency has
for some time been unfolding all around us.*
There is *unprecedented* suffering among *record* numbers of (mostly
first-time) homeless people in Portland today. Legal, orderly camping in
designated places would offer immediate relief for them.

Public health and public safety are increasingly at risk because of the
current situation.

We are all connected. The suffering of the poor will inevitably affect each
of us. They need to stay dry and safe.

Portland's "anti-camping law" will soon be up for debate and modification by
the City Council.
(see, City Code Ch.14A.50.020)

Please consider contacting each City Council member to let them know *your
views*, and thus help to *counter the heavy-handed influence* of various
business alliances, right-wing elements within the Portland Police Bureau,
their favorite politicians, and other insensitive or misinformed people who
want to leave the camping ban in place. Behind the scenes efforts are being
made to water down the upcoming reform of the camping ban.

You can check to see when and how the *camping issue* (and other issues)
will come up on the* Portland **City Council’s Agenda* by looking at the *
City Auditor's web page* at
(there click on “Current Council Agenda” and/or “Upcoming Agenda Items")

*For more facts and perspectives about the camping ban . . .
*as well as other local efforts to provide opportunities for all
un-sheltered and jobless people
for food-growing, shelter-building and other sustainable work opportunities,
visit our Blog at:


*Trying to muster peace through simple justice,*

**the **G.R.O.W.S.** Committee
** *(a policy advisory council of gardening enthusiasts)

*Portland, Oregon*

*-->* (end of the short version of the G.R.O.W.S. e-mail message) *---*
Here now, if you'd like to read on, you may find the perspectives below
If you're not in the mood now, Portland's anti-camping law (along with other
human rights and economic development issues) are discussed further at
the August and
OctoberArchives of
Blog )

Some Facts and Misconceptions About Portland Area Homelessness:

The great majority of those experiencing homelessness *as of this year* in
the Portland metro area are *not* 'homeless by choice', as un-informed or
judgmental people like to suggest. Most of them are *not* mentally ill --
though continued life on the streets can lead to this. Most of them are *not
* addicts, nor criminals, nor road warriors. How many excuses for continued
ignoring or persecution of the socially disadvantaged do we need to keep

There has been a *great shift* in the homeless population locally, and
across the U.S. Because of the economic downturn (and the prospects of a
"jobless recovery"), most of the homeless today are on the streets for the
first time. The majority of those without shelter are seeking work and can't
find any. Thousands are working only occasionally as temps or part-time for
lack of a better economy, and they simply can not afford housing. Waiting
lists for assistance are two years long. Hundreds of the newly homeless in
the Portland area are families with children.

The numbers we hear vary greatly, depending on when and how the count was
conducted. If we count those who are in temporary or precarious housing
situations (staying with friends, or mere acquaintences, or allowed to sleep
in garages, etc.), the numbers in the Portland area reach beyond thirty

Among those on the streets, suffering from the rain and cold is made worse
by persecution. They are foced to hide in order to sleep, since it is
illegal under the current Portland law to cover themselves with a tarp or
tent. It is also illegal to "camp" in ones car, even if that is the only
safe place you have.

*The shelters are full already.*

Hundreds are being turned away nightly in Portland alone. City officials
admit they are well short of the ability to allow all who are suffering to
come inside. We are at least a thousand shelter spaces short in Portland

Locally, this issue -- the criminalization of sleeping in a tent or car --
is among the most important *human rights issues* of our time. Sally
Erickson, Director of Portland Coordinating Committee to End Homelessness
(CCEH) told those in attendance at the Oct. 21 (public) meeting of the CCEH
that, "*so far** *the City Council has mostly only been hearing from people
. . . who want to keep the camping ban in place." There are powerful people
in our City who would rather that the homeless remain hidden. 'Out of sight
out of mind' is a dangerous philosophy when it comes to so many sick,
stressed people.

We need to tell the City Council that with record numbers of homeless people
on the streets for the last year already, we had hoped that the City Council
would have taken up the camping issue long before the start of the current
rainy season. There are too many people on the streets!*

At least 10,000 People Are Now Sleeping Outside in the Metro Area*

The economy has thousands of people terribly stressed for lack of any
shelter. The camping ban is a shameful way to treat people who have no
shelter options. Half way through the so called "Ten Year Plan to End
Homelessness," the number of *newly* homeless citizens has quickly gotten
way beyond the reach of our local Bureaucrats. The Ten Year Plan uses a
housing-with-case-management approach developed by the Bush Administration,
focusing primarily on the chronically homeless.

Most of those experiencing homelessness today are *not* 'chronically' prone
to homelessness, but rather are high functioning, unemployed people who are
seeking work. Most of these people do not know where to turn. Most of these
people are *not* "homeless by choice" as many like to suggest. Locally, most
of them are long-time Portlanders who were working and housed up until

The *majority* of homeless among us locally these days have become homeless
for the *first time* in the just the last two years. Most of them are still
looking for work. Far from 'choosing' homelessness, they are very
disappointed, stressed, and afraid.

Most of the Portland area homeless today are either not qualified for
housing assistance, or are on two year long waiting lists. Our
homeless *shelters
are already full*, with hundreds being turned away nightly. Most don't even
bother trying to check in any more.

*Under the anti-camping law as it is, it is illegal for a property owner or
a church to allow anyone to camp on their grounds. *

What is left for those stuck without options in the rain? Pitching a tent or
a tarp or a piece of cardboard in an out-of-the-way spot? Sorry, that's
illegal. Adding to their misery is the fact that the Portland Police Bureau
has a serious problem with bullies in their ranks. Police often illegally
seize and dispose of the property of homeless citizens. Oppressive sweeps
can leave a person devastated, and without any possessions. It is happening
nightly. *

The camping ban is *dangerous* for *public health* and *public safety*. The
suffering of thousands of our neighbors across the Metro, caught out in the
cold and rain, will inevitably affect each of us. Like ignoring a forecast
hurricane, a culture which forces its homeless to hide is like an arrogant
mariner in a storm path, failing to make preparations.

*Most decent citizens agree that the camping ban should eased or** set
The question is, how effective will the Council's measures be? The homeless
population in the Portland metro area has reached 10,000. At least 20,000
more are 'couch surfing' or living temporarily with friends or family. Most
of these are stressed out people are looking for jobs that aren't there.
With these kinds of numbers at hand, the City Council is now likely, it
seems, to modify the camping ban to allow limited camping.

This past summer, the CCEH ( the homeless helping government agency) of
Portland/ Multnomah County, called together an Alternatives Workgroup to
examine options to expand immediate sheltering needs of our fast growing
homeless population. They have recently made their recommendations to
Commissioner Nick Fish, who has pledged to propose some "alternatives for
safe, dry places to sleep" to the full City Council.

Note: *many* individuals, churches, and activist groups have been asking the
CCEH and more recently Nick Fish's Office to take such an initiative years
now> We had been hoping that they would do so *before* the start of the
current rainy season. Better late than never! Opposition to earlier, more
timely discussions of the Anti-camping law in the City Council have been
lead by the powerful right-wing forces inside the Portland Police Bureau,
the Portland Business Alliance, and by City Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

*The Oregonian* headline of October 22 came out one day after the City's new
'Sidewalks Management Plan' (championed by Fritz) was given force of law.
Note: the old Sit-Lie prohibition was ruled unconstitutional in June of this
year. *Despite* all the foot-dragging about the camping issue, the Camping
Ban is *soon to come up for debate*. The Anti-camping law is now under legal
challenge by the Oregon Law

*The Good News Is ...*

Upon the recommendations of the CCEH's Alternatives Workgroup, Commissioner
Fish is planning to propose an easing of the camping ban in early November,
along with other suggestions as to how homeless people can have more safe
places to sleep. The proposal which Commissioner Fish is *likely* planning
to present to the Portland City Council will include the following elements:

*1.* Portland would adopt a position similar to that of the city of Eugene's
'SAFE' camping program (see, Eugene City Code, Ch.4.816). This will allow
churches and private businesses to legally let small numbers of people sleep
on their property either in tents or in cars.
*2.* Portland would to ease the anti-camping law to allow for tents on *city
property* during night time hours during the winter months.
*3.* Guidelines for proper camping behavior (place, time, and manner
restrictions) will be made public so that the rules are clear to campers,
citizens and police.

Now that the Camping ban is up for debate, the question becomes, *How
effective* would these proposals be in helping the homeless to have enough
safe, dry places to sleep? Assuming that these proposals are passed by our
City Council, will this be enough to help so many unsheltered people? The
answer, we believe is yes and no.

*This month* the City Council is likely to begin talking more seriously
about these issues. Or they may continue to avoid talking about them.* It's
up to us* encourage them to get more serious, and to remind them that there
are far too many people living on the streets.


You can read more about the upcoming camping debate...
at Dignity Advocate's Blog.
*Other NEWS* there discussed includes:

How (as in Seattle and in Eugene) the churches and charities can play a key
role in Portland.
How Portland churches and (certain zoned) businesses will likely be allowed
to accommodate campers where possible. Where are the leaders of the Churches
when it comes to an effective summit on homelessness?

*The question of whether a policy is being drafted which would allow night
time tent camping only on public lands, requiring hundreds of people to pack
up and move on each morning, even in the rain.* While the proposal to
partially lift the ban is good, we are concerned that a watered down version
of a revised camping ban may just keep hundreds or thousands wet.

*The issue of utilizing idle City properties and mothballed resources for
LOWER cost sheltering.*
Not everyone who is homeless is likely to find a church or a business which
will allow them to camp on their property for prolonged periods. There are
too many un-sheltered people to expect that generous churches, businesses
and private citizens will accommodate anywhere-near-all of those seeking

*The issue of another 'Dignity Village' and/or tent cities.*
Should non-profits which receive city funds be required to have clean/sober
leadership handling the community money? Should leadership of any new
'village' be more carefully selected? What does effective self-policing and
self-government need to involve? When, where, and how can *simple economic
development* best happen?

The need for donation drives for camping equipment for individuals as well
as families.
Will local government -- as much as they may spend on expensive rent
vouchers -- will our CCEH or the County buy any inexpensive tents, yurts,
strawbales or practical camping equipment for the homeless? Why citizens
need to help protect public health and safety when government efforts fall
The issue of unchecked, consistent bullying by a few of the Portland Police,
and by certain private security forces. Making things even tougher on the
homeless, this law has been routinely enforced by the Portland Police Bureau
in a more aggressive than called for manner. The silence of the Portland
City Council on this is frightening even by L.A. standards. See Dignity
Advocate's Blog Page entitled,
"The Criminalization of

*The issue of whether **a City or regional emergency **declarations **are
called for. IF modifying Portland's anti-camping law is Insufficient to
alleviate mass suffering, what's next? *The economy has become a disaster
for a quarter million unemployed Oregonians, and is already an (officially
undeclared) *EMERGENCY* for thousands among us.
*And 'The Bigger Picture':
The Need for Locally-Initiated, Ground-Up, Sustainable Economic Development.
* Don't let huge national and international corporate-sponsored-lobbyists
control YOUR local economic planning -- especially at time when greatly
simplified economy (i.e. deliberately lower consumption, not higher) is
needed for the sake of our species' survival.

P.O. Box 3482 * Portland, OR * 97208