The two homeless men shot this morning in what police suggest was a random drive-by attack had been staying "on and off" at Right 2 Dream Too, organizers of the Old Town tent refuge told the Mercury this afternoon. But the men had been turned away when they tried to sleep there again last night—after trying to escape stormy, blustery conditions—because there was no more room.
"Those two guys were coming here," says Ibrahim Mubarak, a spokesman for the group, "but we just didn't have enough room. This is a good reason why we need more places like this."
The men decided against sleeping in a nearby doorway, in hopes that some space would open up at some point in the middle of the night. And instead they trudged across the river and tried to sleep under the Morrison Bridge. Early this morning, someone in a black pickup truck fired shots at the two men as they lay in their sleeping bags, lightly injuring one man, but sending another to the hospital with injuries that police say were critical but aren't expected to be fatal.
Police have yet to identify the men, and say detectives are still investigating.
Right 2 Dream Too, which the city is treating as an illegal recreational campground and fining for a pair of code violations, normally hosts about 75 to 80 people every night. Art Rios, another organizer, says the tent refuge, right at NW 4th and Burnside, filled up around 9 pm. He says at least six other people were turned away.
"It's a lot of people we have turn away every night," Rios said, adding that some days it's as many as 20. "We tell them to go across the street and sleep in a doorway, and if someone leaves, we'll come and get you."
Rios also wouldn't share the men's names, but said he's spent some time with them over the past two months, about when they started showing up among Portland's homeless community. He says he'd sometimes walk with them up to Sisters of the Road for lunch and that they'd help clean R2D2 on the days they stayed there.
Both Rios and Mubarak say violence is a sad fact of life for anyone living on the streets—and that this attack just happened to get a lot more press than most other attacks that no one ever hears about.
"This is an awareness thing," Mubarak says. "We provide security. We provide walls. And the city wants to charge us money to do something they should be doing."