"Prosper Portland": A Good Preview of Coming Homeless Crackdowns

Comments

1
"Still, one crucial aspect of all this wasn't much addressed: Where the homeless will go once they're rousted in greater numbers."

THEN ALL THIS WILL COME TO NAUGHT. Seriously, any plan that doesn't start with this as the most important part will fail. How fucking dumb are these people? Move along strategies? Again? That's worked really well so far.
2
Actually, we just built a really expensive day center stuffed with services at the Bud Clark Commons. They could go there. Or should we spend $40 million on a new one, because the current one is somehow insufficient?

So we can't do anything about our flophouse downtown until all 7,500 homeless people have a bed? At 80k per unit, that's $600 million. Well bleeding hearts, what's the plan? Remember that "really caring a lot" isn't a strategy. It's as good as nothing. Saying "someone really ought to do something" is not a strategy. It is also as good as nothing. So what do you actually propose?

I just read this interesting comment from Dave Bragdon, former head of Metro who went to work on transit in NYC, hardly a tea party conservative:

"Personally, in recent years, I find myself feeling more secure riding the New York Subway through Brooklyn at 2 a.m. than I am on TriMet at some points in broad daylight, and it wasn’t that way a few years ago."
3
It seems that too many people profile the street homeless as being violent people. Most street homeless are not violent; most panhandlers are not aggressive and not all panhandlers are homeless. So first, the public safety threat from a select few street people should be considered separately from the services needed to house the homeless who are receptive to engaging in services.

To resolve the public nuisance and public safety issues related to street people (homeless or not), the focus should shift to sidewalk cleaning and maintenance. That is, in the same way the street sweeping agencies post curbside notices (e.g. Tue and Sat) for no parking, then similar signs on public sidewalks could be posted to prohibit occupying the sidewalk during the hours of regularly scheduled clean ups. What's important is prior notice that applies to everyone regardless if they camp on the sidewalk. That eliminates profiling and targeting and makes challenges of civil liberty moot. The taxpayers pay taxes to keep the sidewalks clear of debris whether it be a candy wrapper dropped by a pedestrian or cardboard left by a sidewalk occupant.

The services provided by clean up crews should be far less expensive that paying wages for cops.
4
You all might be interested in these annual reports for the Portland Housing Bureau that show what our cold-hearted, ruthless City of Portland and we taxpayers do to provide housing every year. But apparently you would do a better job if you were in charge:

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/57417
5
Blabby, I half agree with you, but damn, shouting "WHAT'S YOUR SOLUTION?" at people while simultaneously providing no solution yourself is annoying as hell. Also, I don't know if this has been discussed before, but Ron Swanson is a satirical character, meant to make fun of people who address "bleeding hearts."
6
I support greater enforcement by the police. The measure the chief is talking about in this story and more if necessary. That's my solution.

I'm addressing the people who respond to anyone wanting to undertake any kind of enforcement with "but where will they gooooo?" I don't know. But we can still do enforcement.
8
We know who you're addressing Blabby. But you're insulting them for not knowing the answer to question that they are asking and which you yourself don't know the answer to.

What exactly does "enforcement" mean? Police officers walking around prodding homeless people with nightsticks all day telling them to go somewhere else? Yelling at them to get off the sidewalk, then when they retreat to their tents under bridges going to knock those down too?

They're not fucking Beetlejuice. You can't shout "HOMELESS PEOPLE" three times and they'll disappear. So yes, when you're saying they need to be gone, we have to ask "where will they go?" because right now they don't have anywhere to go where they won't face the exact same problems.
9
Man, my husband and I are married and working full time. We're having problems finding somewhere to move. I can't imagine what it's like starting from scratch. Especially since the housing going in is so affordable.
10
"What exactly does "enforcement" mean?"

To start, it means the many examples given in the article. I will repeat: enforcement and housing are not mutually exclusive. Enforcement can be undertaken while we continue to build housing at the pace we can. "No efforts to clean up the city until every one is housed" is naive utopianism from ineffectual people on the side lines who think that caring a lot and voting for the usual suspects counts as doing something.

To visitors, our central city looks like shit, and is filled with unpleasant people. It just is. My parents who stayed down here for 20 years won't stay downtown any more. It isn't in people's heads. It is worse than it was here in the past, and it is worse than other cities which handle the problem better than we do. There are things that we can do. Saying "man, the issue is so big, what can we do? the government should do something" before taking another hit is not doing anything.

The police are talking about doing what little they can to make some kind of change. Ineffectual people need to shut up and get out of the way. If you come up with some bright idea to house thousands and thousands of people, knock yourself out. The City and the taxpayers ARE building housing, year in and year out, at the pace we can afford. Now we need to clean up the streets at the same time.
11
^^Agree but just pushing them off the streets will accomplish what though?
12
It won't push them off the streets. They will still be on the streets, but perhaps they won't be sprawled all over with their pitbulls where people are trying to walk. And perhaps they won't be following tourists down the street demanding money. And openly getting stoned and drunk and fucking or forming a human moat around our City Hall when people come to have business with our City.

And yes, if they are forced to find a more discrete place to bed down at night, then they will have to do that. If they decide that the living is easier in Oakland, they'll leave. I don't give a shit.

It isn't about solving homelessness, because that can never be done. It is about making a statement that the majority of people in the city, who are the ones paying for all city services, have the right to enjoy their own downtown. We have the right to say, I want our downtown to be a pleasant place and not a shit hole. I have the right to bring my kids downtown without fear of what they're going to experience. I've paid more towards the running of this city than any 25 transients combined. And it's probably a higher number than that.

Every city has homeless people, but in almost every other city it is less obtrusive thanks to enforcement, setting expectations, and establishing bounds of behavior. Other cities can do it and we should to.
13
Separate courts for substance abuse and mental health issues are GREAT ideas that SHOULD be used to keep people out of jail and into treatment - but of course mental health is not addressed at all here, which is a shame. Criminalizing homelessness is cruel and does nothing to address the root causes of poverty and inequality.
14
I fucking love you Blabby. Seriously, you are the last thing on the internet I don't hate.
15
Another part to a solution Blabby - small one at that - put a time limit on people to stay at 'Dignity' Village.
It was meant to help folks get on their feet, not to simply live rent free for years upon years.
16
This city is rife with the professional homeless. I have a guy in my neighborhood that calls himself The Mayor of Belmont, of which the duties of said title must be getting drunk and passing the fuck out wherever he may be standing. I'm sick of looking at this asshole blacked out on my property, the tribal stupidity of the street kids, the refusal for some of these "spokesbums" to work with city leaders, et cetera. And no, you can not have one of my fucking cigarettes.
17
When you say, "I don't give a shit" you should just shut the fuck up. You asses that tell stories about the people on the streets and want the cops to harass them are the same type who would lock everyone up who you don't like. Even a state like Utah figured out that it was costing them more to have a person on the street than to arrange to get them into some type of apartment. Bud Clark is a Fish failure, a 40-50 million dollar failure. We keep doing the same shit over and over and wonder why things don't change. Chief Reese is an ass and will not solve any of these problems. Until you start involving the people on the street on how to try to get some level of control over this problem you are going to have people like, "I don't give a shit" running his big mouth with his small brain."
18
Where's the crime wave that requires the police chief to launch this initiative? It doesn't exist.

One kid hit one guy with a skateboard. That's awful, but it's not an epidemic of violent crime. OK, some people "feel" afraid. It's unfortunate when anyone isn't tripping through the day in a state of pure bliss, but I don't think we're paying the top cop to safeguard people's subjective emotional states. If the homeless are actually committing crimes against people, why doesn't the chief show us statistics to prove it?

But then the top cop gets to the meat of the matter: ""We know if we don't wake them up and ask them to go to Portland Rescue Mission or seek other services, that when a business owner pulls up there's a potential for conflict." So "Prosper Portland" is all about catering to the businessman. The business sector is the intended beneficiary of the Chief's scheme.

As for the "potential for conflict," where are all the news stories about actual conflicts between homeless people and business owners? Let's hear about all the incidents when homeless people attacked the business owners who pulled up and asked them to move. Or vice versa. I haven't heard of any. If the new standard for policing is to intervene whenever there's "potential for conflict," we're going to need a police-to-citizen ratio of 1:1.

As strapped as they are for resources, surely the police aren't rousting every homeless person out of every downtown doorway every morning before opening time. So the "business owners" (by which we really mean the hourly workers who open the stores while the owners are having coffee and reading the paper at home) and the homeless must be working things out just fine on their own most of the time without police intervention.

The Local Public Safety Coordinating Council is very heavy on law enforcement and justice system representatives and very light on social services stakeholders. That's because it's made up of state, county and city officials. The nonprofits involved with the homeless, the ones who do much of the heavy lifting, do not appear to have a place at that particular table.

In the abstract, if the Chief were serious about the homeless, he would have convened a group of all the stakeholders to put together the "Prosper Portland" initiative, not a group that's top-heavy with cops, prosecutors, judges. And it would have been announced in a different forum with representatives of nonprofits in attendance. More importantly, for many reasons, a civilian would have announced it.

Perhaps that has all happened, but I didn't see any mention of it in the story. Unless the Chief had the courtesy ahead of time to inform the nonprofits who work with the homeless about his initiative, they must feel blindsided.

(Parenthetically, if the Chief were sincere about the homeless issue, he wouldn't be playing hide-the-ball with the organization that has taken Portland's most at-risk homeless people off the streets. The Chief threatening to declare it a nuisance because of crime, including drug dealing, but he won't give the organization the information about drug arrests in Old Town that would allow the organization to evict drug dealers. What gives?)

But, as others have said, this initiative is just another iteration of the "move along" policy that caters to the Chamber of Commerce crowd. And that's what happens when a law enforcement officer gets his hands on a social services problem. I think "Prosper Portland' was ginned up by the Portland Business Alliance and the Chief in a vacuum.

It will be interesting to see what the stakeholders who don't think homelessness is a crime have to say about "Prosper Portland."
19
I honestly don't feel safe in downtown Portland. We let the hobos run everything. Well now it's time to move these lazy bums out of Portland! Chase them out of Portland! Shut down these places that feeds them! That's shut down then there forced to look for work or do something for themselves and not use the system for handouts! Make panhandling completely illegal!
20
Blabby, thank you for the response, you made some very good points.
21
... I thought they were all moving to Salt Lake City... where they are building them free apartments...????
22
Oh my god I hate everyone. Everybody. Im an equal opportunity hater. Actually thats a big lie. I hate that I can't walk two blocks out of my downtown apartment without getting hassled for cigarettes by kids with pit bulls on ropes. Foul mouthed, disrespectful, tactless people. Just because you're low incomed (and I'm counting the money you beg off tourists, yes, you) doesn't mean you have to be low class. That's the thing. That's my hate. Why do people have to be so disgusting? Answer me that.
23
I work downtown every single day, and I rarely experience the aggressive behavior some people are describing in these threads. (Yes, there are some jerks who sleep outside…there are some jerks who sleep in houses too). I am incredibly concerned about revamping efforts for solutions that have not worked in the past. No sit-no lie is ineffective because the wait lists for shelters are very long. People simply get woken up multiple times during a night and shuffled from one place to another when no sit no lie in in effect. While Bud Clark is a good resource, there are not sufficient beds for everyone sleeping outside. No sit no lie makes human acts like resting illegal.

I think the root of the matter should be addressed within our urban planning (Hello, PDC). Portland is famous for being a "livable city" with mixed use buildings, but part of that formula relies on affordable housing. With increased gentrification, expensive condos are being built rather than inexpensive apartments, and low-income individuals and families are being pushed out of their neighborhoods or out of housing altogether. We cannot expect the problem of homelessness to go away without addressing the root of the problem. And the sources of homelessness in Portland can be hard to dissect. I would support partnerships between the Portland Business Alliance and the city to find innovative ways to provide jobs/ job training and to build more affordable housing (i.e. inexpensive rent paid by the renter, not necessarily rent subsidized by the state). Portland Business Alliance, I know lots of folks who sleep outside downtown who are willing to work hard but lack resources. There are many struggles (like addiction) within the houseless community, but there is also a lot of untapped potential. Portland Business Alliance, where is your famous entrepreneurial spirit? Let's get creative here.