Tag Archives: Cameron Whitten

Hunger strike ends on promise of regional conference over housing equity

If there is one substantial step forward to come out of the Cameron Whitten hunger strike for housing equity, it is the announcement of a regional conference on housing and homelessness.

This November, the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon will convene a meeting with the city, county and Metro governments to address how the tri-county area can work together on housing and homeless issues.

Nick Fish, Portland’s city commissioner in charge of housing, says the forum will bring together the major players to examine issues of funding and regional equity throughout Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

“We’re a little less than half the pop of the tri-county region, and yet we’re 70 percent of the housing dollars,” Fish told Street Roots this morning. “We’re proud of our leadership role. On the other hand, homelessness is not unique to Portland, and it’s going to be important over time that everybody in the region participate fully.”

Since 2008, when Fish took office, the city has spent $215 million local dollars addressing affordable housing and homelessness, Fish said. “That’s a phenomenal commitment, and it dwarfs what we get from the federal government, and we have to be intentional about it.”

The city and county have long worked in tandem on providing housing and support services, and bringing in metro will incorporate zoning and urban growth policies to the discussion.

The summit is scheduled to occur after the general elections.

Cameron Whitten in Terry Schrunk Plaza last Friday during a rally supporting his demonstration. Photo by Art Rios

Whitten, 21, held a press conference outside of City Hall at 10 a.m. today to address the conclusion of his 55-day hunger strike in which he lost nearly 35 pounds. The conference was among the key victories he saw emerging from his protest against housing injustice.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz released her own statement on the issue at the same time as the press conference.

“We believe solving our local housing challenges is best accomplished with a stronger regional partnership involving advocates, agencies, non-profit and faith communities, and people experiencing homelessness. After the November elections is an opportune time to take a new look at regional homeless and affordable housing issues, as we welcome newly elected leaders to the table.”

Whitten started his hunger strike and 24-hour demonstration outside City Hall with three demands: that the Bureau of Development Services waive fines levied on the owners of the property where Right 2 Dream Too is established, for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department to issue a one-year moratorium on foreclosure evictions for homeowners, and for City Council to add a housing levy measure to the November 2012 General Election ballot.

While none of those issues were resolved, Fritz said in her statement that they would be discussed in the future.

“In addition to the Summit, the city is engaged in ongoing conversations about the futures of Right 2 Dream 2 and Dignity Village. When the time is right, we believe a future City Council will support a public vote on a new dedicated funding source for affordable housing.”

Hunger striker draws support with city hall rally

Cameron Whitten, Portland Occupier and former mayoral candidate, marked the tenth day of his hunger strike outside city hall today with a small cadre of supporters, including two new strikers.

Wearing a “Suicidal Tendencies” baseball cap and inexplicably wielding a sign of a green, smiling sunflower, Whitten talked with passersby in front of his sidewalk station, hoping that his public hunger strike will inspire others to become more involved. The 2 p.m. rally drew about 25 people in support for Whitten’s demonstration in solidarity with the homeless community.

“Seeing that I’m putting everything in my life aside—refusing to eat food, camping outside City Hall — (I am) hoping people realize that if they just gave five minutes of their time to call up a representatives, volunteer in their community and talk about the issues that are important to you, they can bring about change,” says Whitten.

Whitten has made his protest about three demands, the first being for the city to withdraw the fines against the owners of the property now leased by Right 2 Dream Too, a homeless rest area that has operated at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Burnside since October. The owners of the property, Michael Wright and Dan Cossette, are being fined $1,280 a month by the city’s Bureau of Development Services for violating city code on what the city is classifying a recreational campground.

Whitten and his supporters are also calling on the city to place a housing levy measure on the November 2012 General Election ballot, and for the Multnomah County Sheriff to issue a 1-year moratorium on “Wall Street bank foreclosures” in the county.

Commissioners Nick Fish, who oversees housing, and Dan Saltzman, who oversees the Bureau of Development Services, were not immediately available to comment. However, Fish has said a levy request is years away, and Saltzman has supported the BDS’s process regarding Right 2 Dream Too.

“It’s really good to know that there is conversation going on that wasn’t there before,” Whitten says. “Unfortunately, I haven’t seen too much of a response from elected officials who might be able to have some influence over R2D2’s situation, the levy or the foreclosure thing.”

Whitten says he has refrained from eating food but has consumed some fruit juice and water since starting the hunger strike.

Photos by Robert Britt