Bells Ring In Portland

The faces on the streets of Portland are more strained, more frustrated, more resilient than we’ve seen in many years. Portland has increased the ways they address houselessness. Yes, they have opened more shelters and have a one stop shop of services coming in the fall 2018. As if it’s the answer to the houseless prayers (SMH). However, the number of unhoused neighbors has also risen

The stepped up measures of Police stops and profiling of houseless has changed the atmosphere. Folks are afraid to walk to food and services for fear of having their names run, bags searched or confiscated, asked to show ID, and or profiled for appearing houseless.The Mayor’s office and Pdx Police, Oregon Dept of Transportation and Metro are SWEEPING unhoused neighbors at alarming rates. The result is that folks don’t want to leave their spots fearing targeting or that their stuff will be gone when they return. In some areas displacement happens every (3) days. One hour is allotted to move belongings.  Anything left after that is either bagged for folks to claim at a far off facility or thrown away as biohazards. 24 hour to 7 day notices are not always posted, creating another level of trauma. Missing during these raids is the apparent lack of social service agencies or mental health providers present when SWEEPS are taking place to support our unhoused neighbors.

Recently, a member of Right 2 Survive was offered the opportunity to research and map the number of SWEEPS and record the frequency and estimated number of folks displaced. Here is a sampling of the findings:

-Over the last 18 months or so, campsite sweeps have significantly increased in Portland. The last 8 months have a count of sweeps above the total average (mean=112.4 per month), showing that the trend is consistent.

-While campsite reports by the public have increased as well (One Point of Contact data), the estimated number of reported campsites in those reports as given by the City of Portland’s HUCIRP program has remained stable.

- The five neighborhoods with the highest quantity of sweeps over this time period are Buckman, Lloyd Center, Lents, Old Town/Chinatown, and Hosford-Abernethy.

- With an estimated average of 5.8 (0-22) people per campsite, and an average of 24.7 sweeps per week, up to 143 people are being displaced on average each week.

Tracking work has happened in other cities with similar alarming stats. The use of displacement and criminalization tactics to manage houselessness is not solving the issues, it is only fostering larger ripples in a broken system.

It is no wonder the faces are strained and flustered. Houseless neighbors are under constant threat of harassment from police by profiling, The SWEEPS, often the result of complaints to the city call in numbers, results in folks have little time for anything else. Uncertainty, sleep deprivation and summer  temperatures have strained and flustered our neighbors without walls. There is no end in the foreseeable future for Portland’s houseless. Neighbors without walls are resilient. They will be moved again. They will be targeted by injustice and they will come together to fight back. We will continue to track and record these despicable tactics aimed at destabilizing the houseless and targeting them with criminalization.

Lisa Fay, Chairperson, Right 2 Survive