Police this morning sent out word of a senseless, violent crime targeting a pair of homeless men:
On Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 5:12 a.m. Portland Police officers assigned to Central Precinct responded to a call of a shooting in the 100 block of Southeast Belmont Street. Arriving officers made contact with two men who had been shot. The two men were sleeping when both were shot. One man was grazed by a bullet on the side of his body and the second man was shot in the chest. The man shot in the chest is being transported to an area hospital with possible life threatening injuries.
Officers learned from witnesses that the men were shot in a drive by type shooting by a suspect from a pickup truck. The truck is described as black, newer, 4 doors and had no canopy.
The Forensic Evidence Division and Homicide Detectives are responding to the scene at this time.
Lieutenant Robert King, a police bureau spokesman, is telling reporters that the cops believe the shooting was "random." A well-placed city source who said he spoke with Chief Mike Reese this morning says detectives are vigorously pursuing leads, and that the man who was shot in the chest was maybe in stable condition at a nearby hospital.
The shooting is stirring up a storm of outrage in City Hall and elsewhere—and it highlights the need for more projects like the homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too at NW 4th and Burnside (which the city is currently trying to nickel-and-dime into oblivion) and the city's recent car camping pilot program. There are places where someone who's homeless can go during the day, like the Bud Clark Commons, but outside the city's crowded, filled shelters, there are no truly safe places to get a good night's sleep.
In a statement, the Reverend Chuck Currie, a police accountability and social services advocate, pointed to a National Coalition for the Homeless project that's pushing to classify such attacks as hate crimes.
"Having served on the NCH board and worked on issues of homelessness and poverty for twenty-five years, I can tell you there are many levels of complexity to the homelessness crisis. But this is a spiritual crisis as much as a political or economic crisis. When we allow people living on our streets to become invisible we begin the process of dehumanization and thus we see the increase in hate crimes against the most vulnerable in our society—those Jesus would have called the "least of these."
Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau and who helped push the new car camping program (but who has so far declined to seek to apply the same model—no code enforcement—to R2DToo), also issued a statement reminding us that people forced to live on the streets are far more likely to endure violence.
I condemn the perpetrator of this ugly act of violence. Two sleeping homeless men were apparently the victims of a random drive-by shooting. One victim has been hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.
Homeless men, women, and children living on our streets are particularly vulnerable to violent acts. In the City's 2011 Street Count, nearly half of those who completed a survey reported being the victim of physical violence or attack.
The City is making progress in its effort to end homelessness. The opening of Bud Clark Commons is but one notable example. This shameful criminal act reminds us that everyone in our community deserves a safe and decent place to call home.