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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The "Hobo Bellagio"

Portland is about to open its new homeless center over by the Greyhound terminal. Apparently the city has decided to test out the theory that the best way to reduce the number of homeless people on Portland's streets is to build them a nice eight-story hotel. Named after ex-Mayor Bud Clark, the place will fill up as soon as it opens its doors, and presumably that will mean fewer street people.

Maybe. Certainly it's worth a try. But Portland already has a reputation for being extraordinarily tolerant of the antics of some of the homeless, and one wonders whether rolling out the red carpet in nice digs is going to reduce the city's attractiveness to the more problematic segment of the street set. One intuits that it might have the opposite effect.

Anyway, the local media have had a tour of the place, and the kids at the Merc have dubbed it the "Hobo Bellagio." It does seem rather resort-like, but perhaps that's over the top. It does need a nickname, but a gentler one, please.

Comments (31)

In about two months, Bud Clark Commons will have that wonderful “old-building” smell.

Currently many homeless are already residing in motels and hotels, establishments taking advantage of those down and out. These homeless are long term renters who pay for their fleabag room by the month, but are charged by the day. Why? Because no background check is needed, no references are checked, and big first and last costs up front are not required.

Such social experiments have not been all that successful in the past, but I would like to think at least this noble effort has some small chance. With a little compassion and lots of luck we may later refer to this Hotel as the "Winn Wynn".

The tough thing about affordable housing, as you allude to, is that once you build it, there are plenty more needy households to take their place. I'm really not convinced that a city can build enough affordable housing. Which is why a "plan to end homelessness" is laudable, but futile.

Now why is the government spending money on this? We're almost to the end of Portland "10 year plan to end homelessness" rolled out under the Katz administration. What's the need? Surly this 10 year plan (and all the money spent on it) wasn't just a wasteful boondoggle, was it? After 10 years of progressive policies, certainly we have less homelessness than we did in 2004 - right?

Have been re-reading William Kennedy's Albany Trio. Am saving the best book for last, Ironweed. Story of a bum, when bums were men, by gum. Francis Phelan wouldn't touch no stinkin' bum bellagio.

Billy Phelan's Greatest Game is excellent and gives a backdrop to one man's bum problem. Amounts to a total picture of the Bum in Full.

Well, we've already got the Benson, so how about the Bumson?

Water Bureau Inn? They are probably paying for it with money from there anyhow.

There's a theory out there that says giving chronically homeless people a permanent, decent place to live and all sorts of attached health and addictions recovery services ends up costing taxpayers less in the long run than letting them live on the streets (by running up bills in emergency room visits, police officers' time, etc.). I assume this is some of the reasoning behind the construction of the "Hobo Bellagio".

It looks good on paper but can be a tough sell politically: why are free housing and other goodies being given to people perceived as not contributing much to society when there are so many other needs the money could be spend on? But if it helps get people the help they need and "cleans up" downtown Portland, it could be an investment worth making.

I wonder about this idea that Portland has a reputation for being generous to the homeless. Is there any actual statistical evidence about this? I ask because in literally every city where I've lived, people I know have confided in me "oh, and of course [insert city here] is known as a great place to live if you are homeless." I suspect that people in literally every major city in America believe that their city is "known" as a haven for the homeless. The reality is, sadly, that there are just a ton of homeless people in America.

Its not going to "clean up" downtown. They will still be roaming the streets, panhandling & such. Its not like they are being locked up.

It does seem a little hard hearted to begrudge the homeless a roof over their heads. These folks need our help not our scorn. There is no great place to live if you are homeless. Just think about having to bed down on the sidewalk tonight...

I believe that part of the reasoning for this Resource Access Center was to deflect criticism from the sidewalk ordinance. To answer the question "well, where are the homeless supposed to go?"

It has a place in the basement to hang out during the day and get services.

I don't begrudge this development. It is the type of thing the PDC should be doing instead of helping Mark Edlen get rich. And unlike 95% of what they do, it isn't aimed at pushing the poor out.

I just tend to think that if you have 2,000 people on the street, and give 100 of them housing, that within a year or two, you'll again have 2,000 on the street, plus the 100 in housing. That's why I'm not sure it "saves money."

I wouldn't be surprised to see the "grand opening" posted around SF to coincide with their change of policy.


Just in time for summer!

Where is the play area and daycare for children if the clientele includes families, as the website claims?

"I just tend to think that if you have 2,000 people on the street, and give 100 of them housing, that within a year or two, you'll again have 2,000 on the street, plus the 100 in housing. That's why I'm not sure it 'saves money.'"

By that logic, why feed the hungry? There will simply be more hungry people who come after them. Or tend to the sick and dying? Won't others become sick and die?

Many things done in Portland by our supposedly "progressive" government aren't progressive or liberal or democratic in any meaningful sense. Sometimes they're the opposite. This project seems like a clear exception. We're making policy, marshalling resources, and spending money in order to lessen human misery. As a community, we should be proud of that.

Because Richard, the same principal applies - as when there is a free resource, there is an unlimited demand.

Teach a man to fish instead of giving him a fish.

By the same token, when you subsidize something - you get more of it.

The laws of nature tell us being homeless is unsafe and dangerous, trying to mask that fact helps no one.

"The laws of nature tell us being homeless is unsafe and dangerous, trying to mask that fact helps no one."

Providing a home, even if temporary, to someone who is homeless is not masking the problem, it's solving it--at least in the short term. And solving the problem in the short term may be the first step to solving it in the long term. I imagine that few people are able to go directly from sleeping on the sidewalk or under a bridge to being able to take care of themselves in a more thorough way. Human beings need shelter in order to thrive.

Your libertarian/conservative talking point--"when you subsidize something - you get more of it"--is disgusting when applied to human beings.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

--"when you subsidize something - you get more of it"--is disgusting to ignore, especially when applied to human beings.


Portland Tribune reported in 2009 Portland had the highest homeless count in the nation, and it's probably the same or higher today. But it's all in who's and why you're doing the count. For matching fed/state/multnomah dollars you increase the count. For determining if the last two 10 Year Homeless Plans are working, you count less.

If the 2800 to 3200 homeless counts are somewhat accurate does that mean we need to build another 100 to 125 buildings like the Bud Clark Bellagio to make us feel good and solve the problem? In Tucson when the weather gets too hot the locals here always ask where you're going for the other six months, "Ah Portland, they have everything including any drugs you want."

"If the 2800 to 3200 homeless counts are somewhat accurate does that mean we need to build another 100 to 125 buildings like the Bud Clark Bellagio to make us feel good and solve the problem?"

It sounds like ignoring the problem would make you feel perfectly fine. It must be easy to be you.

"Housing first" is the only logical concept to apply to dealing with homelessness, and advocates here know that. Even sobriety-first isn't working. The only possible way out of homelessness is a job and you can't even begin to try to get that without an address -- and a shower. If you don't want to pitch in and provide some possibility of a way out for these people, then you're really saying is that homelessness is and should be an inescapable dead end. Ah but I can almost hear it already: "they made bad choices."

Most homeless people are likely to have made bad choices, some will be victims of circumstances or unavoidable health problems. Is there no room in your philosophy for holding people accountable for their freely-made bad choices and having them suffer whatever consequences come their way? It's no wonder Portland government gets away with so much.

Giving most of these people someplace to live only treats a symptom, not the underlying problem.

Richard, I'm happy to give direct services to people. I regularly give money to the city's downtown missions and the food bank.

Building affordable housing is more expensive by orders of magnitude. It requires much more due diligence.

I worked in the affordable housing field for many years. Lots of shades of grey. It's not as easy as deciding "we should be nice to people".

We need to admit that the need for affordable housing is basically a bottomless well, because it can change how you decide to approach it and spend scant dollars.

Addiction, mental illness, and learned helplessness lie at the heart of the "homeless problem".

The fact there is no mechanism to prevent the consumption of alcohol and drugs on premises of Bud Clark Commons means you can plan on plenty of expensive phone calls to 911 for mostly preventable problems.

This is a shiny new leed certified band-aid, nothing more.

"This is a shiny new leed certified band-aid, nothing more."

If providing housing is merely a band-aid for homelessness, let's hear your idea on how to cure it.

So many here are justifying their indifference to suffering by pretending that indifference is actually compassion. Thinking doesn't get much more messed up than that.

Giving people a place to sleep is one thing. Building a $48 million facility without adding any new capacity is LoL Only-in-Portland funny.

Several sources have indicated these new beds are opening up while the old facilities are being shuttered (probably to be replaced by a new condo mafia tower).

If you gave me $48 million, I could build enough quonset huts to house the entire west coast population of "homeless". But it wouldn't be Leed Certified, and you wouldn't be able to get high or drunk there. And it wouldn't be so comfortable that you would want to stay there forever.

Learned helplessness is when you teach people to rely on the government for their daily existence: they learn they don't have to do anything but receive. It also creates the wrong kind of incentives for others who are trying to become self-sufficient.

"We're making policy, marshalling resources, and spending money in order to lessen human misery."

If only it were so. We spent $60M and ongoing costs on this and countless other shelters downtown, yet we still have plenty of homeless. Then we can spend $1.5B for a train to Milwaukie and $65M to raise one street 15 feet in the air.

Yet, we need $550M for schools to repair, can't find any money at all to fix the Sellwood and water rates have gone up a ton to pay for all of this.

I don't see how mtaking care of the homeless by impovershing the rest of society helps all of us, there need to be some limits. I don't think I am bineg extreme, since I know a lot of people with jobs who aren't saving and probably can't afford decent schooling for their kids.

It'd be like the father who can't afford to clothe or feed his kids or send them to a good school taking his last monies and giving it away to some homeless people instead.

I think we confuse nice with necessary.

The Bum Wash

It's the least the city can do after eagerly lending a helping hand to a crashed economy to push homeowners and families into ruin and under a bridge.

Actually, maybe it's more like the father who maxes out his credit card on fancy home remodels and buying the best clothes, food, and schooling for his favorite child while letting his other child freeze and go hungry in the back room, until he's up for election as head of the local neighborhood association, then it's "oh, sorry kid, here's $10, go buy yourself some shoes, a bite to eat, and try to stay out of sight".

Richard, how assuming you are in your comment "It sounds like ignoring the problem would make you feel perfectly fine." A put-down without any knowledge.

There are more ways than building LEED housing at $390 per sq.ft for the problem. One organization is The Rescue Mission which I support. They seek to help "the underlying problem[s]". That is why I mentioned just one of the problems beyond housing, "drugs"-and alcohol. What has CoP done about that? Throwing money at any of the underlying problems is not the only solution. And Rescue Mission is proof of that-even though they certainly need our financial support too.

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