Homeless in Portland: ‘Ain’t never seen such a bad deal’

Is Portland Over?

One homeless man shared his insights

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At a homeless camp along I-5 at North Lombard, one of the people participating in a recent clean-up lives in the camp and shared his insights into why Portland is stuck in a homeless crisis.

At his camp, he’s frustrated younger homeless people keep bringing in more stuff and doesn’t understand why the city of Portland allows it and why it doesn’t at least provide them with garbage cans.

“We cleaned this area over here twice in 3 weeks,” the man told KOIN 6 News. “Portland don’t want to keep picking it up, picking it up, picking it up. I take care of my area, if I start seeing it getting overflowed, I go over and tell them, ‘Hey man, pick it up or get the hell out of here’.”

The city made a decision during the pandemic to leave many homeless camps alone and decided to try to do a better job helping people in camps gets social services. That takes more time and money.

The man agreed to talk to KOIN 6 News if his identify was not revealed. He didn’t share any personal details about his life beyond saying he’s originally from Texas.

Asked if there are not enough mental health services he said, “For them. You know what I mean? Not me. I’ve seen people get run over right out there (pointing to the freeway on-ramp). People, man. It’s ridiculous.”

Then there’s the drug use.

“Holy macaroni! I ain’t never in my life seen such a bad deal. They’re giving them the money to go buy the dope. They’re, I mean, they can work for it, if anything. You know what I mean? Come on, man! Do something besides give them money and do this and do that and get stupid trash everywhere.”

This homeless man helped clean up a homeless camp at North Lombard and Montana, October 2021 (KOIN)

He’s talking about government financial assistance that some in the homeless camps spend on drugs. That government assistance is supposed to go to living expenses.

Housing is an issue, of course. But “who can afford $1500 a month for a box? That’s sad. That doesn’t coincide their Social Security or whatever they’re getting, you know, for help.”

Data from Multifamily NW and A Home For Everyone shows that since early 2015, “rents in our community have risen much faster than the median income, to nearly $1400 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Portland. … Meanwhile, more than 21,000 people in Multnomah County rely on federal disability checks that top out at $794 a month.”

“Every major forecast is predicting continued rent increases in Portland Metro,” wrote Multifamily NW in its Fall 2021 Apartment Report. “This will be driven by steady population growth, decreasing number of units under construction, and declining vacancies.”

The man from Texas was working alongside Terrance Moses who runs Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Through donations to his non-profit, Moses cleans up camps and tries to help people living on the fringe.

“What you should really know is that a lot of our houseless neighbors aren’t here by choice and yes, there’s a segment of them that are here by choice,” Moses said. “And the stigma of dehumanizing them, what other folks don’t know about it is that it is very hurtful and traumatizing to an already traumatic incident.”

This homeless man helped clean up a homeless camp at North Lombard and Montana, October 2021 (KOIN)

Moses said we can’t build enough brick-and-mortar buildings in a timely and urgent way. “But what we do need is more tiny homes or just land and let them pitch their tents or put the RVs, but still provide them the services.”

He added the reason many homeless people seem to hoard garbage is really simple. “When you’re homeless and you have absolutely nothing, everything you touch becomes a prize possession. And they want to hold on to everything.”

While the man from Texas didn’t want to share how he ended up in this homeless camp, he did say the City of Portland is enabling the crisis he’s part of.

City leaders, he said, are “giving up too easy. The political people are just giving up. They don’t, they don’t, they don’t care to deal with it. They don’t want to deal with it and they’re not going to deal with it. They’re going to pass the buck to somebody else. It’s a little bit easier.”

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