Diaries of the Disenfranchised: Optimism is not an early riser

As I sit here perusing the park, several things occur to me.

Number one: Nothing much has changed.

The police, in my opinion, are still getting away with killing unarmed people, as we see from the Aaron Campbell shooting on Jan. 29. Yes, I am sure there is an investigation and the right people will, of course, be brought to justice, but that won’t make Mr. Campbell any less dead, now, will it?

Number two: People I know and love are still being herded like cattle from place to place. Why? Because there is no place where it’s OK for us to be. It’s still wet when it rains and without the ability to put up any kind of shelter, people are still getting sick. Without adequate washing and drying facilities the bedding and the clothing becomes wet dirty and moldy, which adds up to unpaid medical bills.

This morning over coffee, there are the usual complaints — sore throats, rusty, hacking coughs, wet blankets, and the occasional raspy, little sarcastic laugh. And, of course, the drama that comes from living your whole life out loud and without privacy of any kind. Honestly, we don’t have doors, so there is no such thing as a regular argument or misunderstanding cleared up quietly, which sucks.

Women are still not safe and, frankly, neither are the men. What we have here is a smoldering bed of pent up frustrations and hardships that do not have to exist. Add to that discrimination and oppression both by inside forces and outside forces and what do you get? An explosive situation that needs to be dealt with now, not pushed under the rug for another year.

Truly, not much has changed in the last year, except, of course, my own perceptions. Last year at this time, I still believed that if people drew together and stood up to city hall, that things would change. I still believed that the system itself was basically benign and good and just needed a push in the right direction. This morning, I realize it is the system itself that needs to be completely overhauled.

I think we need a new system. One that takes into account several factors that the current one does not. The current system is set up to help about one-fourth of the people who need it. It is not set up to evolve with the changing needs of an exploding population. For the past year, I have seen every type of action to attract attention to this situation. Sadly, I have seen no lasting success with any one or any combination of actions. Which, I must say, is truly frustrating when you take into account that every statistic or number on the page is a human being whose life is being completely screwed up. Bear with me — even the coffee tastes bitter this morning, along with my attitude.

I am not sure which direction to go at this point, but am unable to just let things ride, so I am asking you, people of Portland, to help me brainstorm. I still remain convinced that if we all come together this can be solved in a much better and more appropriate manner. Seriously folks. This has to be doable. Please let me know of any ideas you can come up with. Now would be a good time for all the advocates and activists to come together. Just a thought. I mean after all, the civil rights movement started with just a few dedicated individuals and look what they accomplished. We can, as a city and as a community, come together and solve this. Not with apathy and blame but with solidarity and purpose, one step at a time.

By Julie McCurdy is a homeless woman living in Portland, Oregon.

One response to “Diaries of the Disenfranchised: Optimism is not an early riser

  1. Julie, this is a really great article, you are addressing the root cause of social injustice here:
    “People I know and love are still being herded like cattle from place to place. Why? Because there is no place where it’s OK for us to be.”
    That’s exactly right. To answer your request for brainstorming on an effective direction to go in, I offer the following:
    Any feedback or sharing would be appreciated.

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