Street Roots editorial, June 27.
After more than three weeks of protests by individuals experiencing homelessness, countless actions (including actions by Street Roots and Sisters Of The Road), weekly testimonials from individuals in front of City Council and the realization for many that we are indeed dealing with a housing crisis, Portland finds itself at a crossroads.
City Hall has sent a clear and consistent message that both the camping ordinance and the sit-lie ordinance will not be repealed, at least not in the near future.
First and foremost, the outrage on the streets is in direct response to a lack of housing and the realities that come with not having a home. For many, those realities come in the form of the enforcement of obscene laws, meant to keep order and maintain business as usual.
Both the camping and sit-lie laws, coupled with park exclusions (overseen by a private security agency that continues to go unchecked) and programs like the Service Coordination Team, are intended to maintain order downtown and to ultimately help individuals. But it’s time our politicians faced the cold, hard facts that these laws are breaking people’s spirits.
Beyond facing the great wilderness of being homeless, individuals on the streets are being constantly harassed by law enforcement and private security agencies that have no clear solutions other than to push them out of sight.
In the past six weeks, many of those individuals have refused to remain invisible.
They’ve camped, been arrested, developed proposals, attended countless meetings, marched, screamed, cried and at times been flat out rude – all in response to a market system that has no logical answers for them.
Yet in the midst of all this, hundreds of individuals on the streets have taken it upon themselves to remain non-violent, to engage in our political system, and to reach out for solutions. They have tried their best to organize themselves and others living on the streets for better living conditions.
This edition of Street Roots highlights Dignity Village, an organization that was born in response to many of the same conditions that exist today, along with new proposals and the possibility of a second tent city.
Just bringing up the idea of Tent City II sends chills down the backs of many bureaucrats and some social service providers.
Dignity Village is not perfect. But they have developed an organization that has helped house countless individuals, allowed for 60 individuals to not sleep on Portland’s streets, and become a safe-haven for many women who find themselves in the nightmare we call homelessness. They’ve accomplished these feats with very few resources.
Portland has some hard choices to make on the homeless front in the coming weeks. If Dignity Village was the perfect storm, than the group of individuals organizing for what they are calling a “green zone,” or another tent city, are scattered thunderstorms. Possibly the storm will die out, or maybe it will build as time passes.
Regardless, one thing is for sure: the city has to move on something to deal with the impossible reality of the criminalization of the homeless, coupled with the lack of thousands of affordable housing units. We’re waiting.