A Note On Urban Camping
Tens of millions of people currently struggle daily to meet their basic needs in the wealthiest nation on Earth. All indications are that the fight to survive will only get worse unless political and economic power in the United States is returned to the 99%. Here in Portland, the 1% mismanage public funds and control all “public” land while hundreds have no where to sleep. Meanwhile, major media sources continue to marginalize and silence the voices of economic refugees.
The failure of the City of Portland to provide shelter space for all the unhoused people who need it has led to the development of small groups of unhoused people supporting each other in building shelters as they can, where they can. When the city evicted Occupy Portland from the parks where we had lived together as a diverse group of activists for five weeks, many unhoused individuals and families were forced to re-seek shelter under Portland’s bridges and subjected to harassment by police officers. Right2Survive’s Blog on Occupy Portland’s eviction day outlined the disheartening shelter situation that the unhoused face:
“Housing Commissioner Nick Fish has stated that the city is opening some winter beds early to provide for some people who will be displaced by this eviction. As of Saturday afternoon, there are no beds available for unhoused women in Portland, according to 211. The Salvation Army was scheduled to open a winter warming center this week, but that has not happened. City Team Ministries, which charges $5 for a bed, and Portland Rescue Mission, which uses a lottery system to fill beds, are regularly full and must turn people away.
According to the most recent homeless count, there are currently 1700 people sleeping outside in Portland. Mike O’Callahan of Right 2 Survive surveyed people in city parks and under bridges for two weeks shortly after the homeless count. Of the 75 unhoused people he spoke to, only 15 said they had been surveyed by outreach workers performing the count. Right 2 Survive feels there has been an extensive undercount of people actually sleeping outdoors, but even accepting the city’s numbers, there are still more than 750 people without a safe place to sleep.”
Occupy Gateway was an independent, autonomous occupation by people who worked together at Occupy Portland. They adopted the principles of the spokes council model to democratically organize themselves as a community of unhoused people.Occupy Portland applauds any autonomous group of unhoused people who choose to create a peaceful community for themselves, and while this was not a GA-approved activity, we hope the spokes council model will prove useful for this community in all future camps.
Until City Hall begins to seriously address economic inequality, unhoused people and their allies will continue to find shelter wherever they can which includes erecting camps in public spaces.If you believe that Mayor Adams should create a space for the unhoused to set up an organized community within the city, please call the Mayor’s office directly: 503-823-4120
****This is a statement from the public relations committee.****