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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dear Charlie

A reader whom we admire sends along this message that she just sent to Portland mayoral frontrunner Charlie Hales:

I am a third generation native and have spent many of my professional years as an attorney working downtown (although I rarely go downtown at night). Last Saturday night, my husband and I were downtown for a wedding. We arrived a bit early to grab a drink. At Portland Prime. The wedding was at Kells.

We were both STUNNED to witness the hordes of aggressive panhandlers / street kids with too many pit bulls to count harassing tourists, making rude and inappropriate comments to us when we would not give money and at one point, blocking our car door. Not surprising, Portland Prime was virtually empty. The tourists in line at Voodoo Donuts looked scared.

Downtown Portland, once the thriving epicenter of the city, is going to hell. And it's getting worse every day because the current mayor and city council are too afraid to actually back the business owners and citizens for fear of not being uber liberal/friendly to our homeless population. I was a public defender for 7 years. I assure you that many of the homeless are not from here, but make Portland part of their traveling circuit (based on the mild weather) BECAUSE OUR LAWS ARE SO LENIENT!!!

Charlie, excuse my French, but it is going to take some real balls to do something about this situation. It will mean you being attacked as unsympathetic, conservative, etc.

Are you willing to do something? If so, what? When? How?

You have no idea how much I love my city. But enough is enough and we need a drastic change. I look forward to hearing from you.

Comments (43)

She should have copied Nick Jellyfish the flake. He seems to be the city patron saint for the homeless. Fritz doesn’t have a clue either.

From City Hall's perspective, those hobos somehow became the constituency, and you are just a NIMBY.

Here is the compact in Portland: The City government will make your neighborhood worse, reduce your services, and inconvenience you. In return for this privilege you will pay higher taxes and fees each year.

And I'm really not being facetious. That's how it has been every year since I've arrived.

And that's how it is.

They're not homeless; they're bums.

I understand that there are certain limitations with the sidewalk ordinance, free speech and so forth, but the aggressive in your face panhandling has to stop. It's one thing to have a bunch of shabby looking people who smell bad laying around on the sidewalk with a cup, but it's completely another to feel threatened, intimidated and harassed by perfectly healthy hobo punks with their pitbulls when you are attempting to patronize businesses in the downtown core. People need to call 911 when this happens and press charges if they show up.

Thanks for saying this. It's ridiculous that our city leaders allow this to happen to downtown. As a visiting friend from DC asked, why are there so many bums in downtown Portland? He was not impressed with our city.

I got accosted again! today out in front of Trader Joes on NW 21st and Glisan. A street Roots guy, and 2 homeless individuals, all haranguing every customer and passer by.
In an attempt to not seem totally heartless and unfeeling I bought meal tickets from Sisters of the Road last year to give to these poor unfortunates, and guess what? I still have all the meal tickets! No one will take them!
I am sick and tired of the

Aw gee hi the wrong button!
I am sick and tired of these people!

I have always found the Street Roots people to be nothing but completely respectful, clean and polite. They are micro-business people selling a product...not begging. Don't lump them in with the aggressive lay about scum we are talking about here.

I too am third generation native. But I have not gone downtown for recreation for years. Thanks to the writer of this letter for representing my views, too.

The original author should save the message and send it to Jefferson Smith when he is sworn in as mayor in January.

If you can pepper spray students at a sit in you can pepper spray panhandlers who block your path.

I just bought a can from Walmart...there's some sort of irony there.

After 22 years in Oregon (Lake O, Tigard, and Portland), I moved to Vancouver in December for three reasons:

1. Better job/schools/government services (including freeway expansion).

2. Fewer intrusions into my personal life.

3. More reasonable tax structure.

There are exactly three intersections where I routinely encounter beggars. I never give them cash, but I sometimes give them bread, peanut butter, and pop-top veggies or Vienna sausage.

The only time I've encounter a S'panger that wasn't at one of the aforementioned intersections, it was a tweaker trying to scam people into buying a worthless gift-card inside Target: they called the Police, and he was removed from the store.

At the very least the cops could enforce *existing laws* requiring that dogs be licensed and up to date on their shots. Odds that the pitbulls belonging to the street kids are legal on either count?

At least it's "kind of" being addressed:


The reader is spot on. People who give money to panhandlers are the least compassionate people around, they want to enable addiction and worsen peoples' lives.

Portland may not win sit/lie, although San Francisco just passed its own sit/lie ordinance with Berkeley voting next, but it needs to enforce alcove camping, which is private property, strictly.

People need to be able to run a business in the city, otherwise they'll be homeless themselves.

Portland Native

I've never been accosted by Street Roots, they're a pretty responsible and reputable group. I've also seen some of their news guys and gals clean up trash outside of stores, to which, I bought a paper of theirs as a thank you.

"It will mean you being attacked as unsympathetic, conservative, etc."

Attacked as conservative? The horror! Say no more!

I can take anything, anything at all! Even being attacked as unsympathetic!! But I just can not, nor will I ever take, being called conservative! A man (or woman) has their limits!

If suckers would stop handing these freaks cash it would stem the tide.
Forget trying to get anyone in local government to do anything about the bums. No one in authority would dare be labeled...what was it? Conservative? Oh the horror.

Downtown has gone to the dogs. Move out and take your tax dollars/foldin' money with you. Get em where it hurts.

Harry wrote: Attacked as conservative? The horror!

Indeed. Perversely, it would be safer to openly identify as such in the central city. Conservatives are perceived as less susceptible to the bums' sob stories and hustles, and thus a bit less likely to be victims. They also would be more likely to pack heat. =-)

I know downtown very well, and after years of steady decline I no longer spend any more time there than necessary -- and never at night. When downtown, my wanderings are reduced to a smaller, less crowded area. Some days I just stay in.

The spouse has also experienced increasing problems downtown. If I can find a way to work elsewhere, I will. I'll miss a few things (albeit few that are revenue generating), but not enough to stay. My handle is mostly ironic these days.

I remember the exact moment when I realized that Downtown / Old Town was no longer safe. It was during the Rose Festival in 1997, when a man was killed by a stray bullet fired blocks away. He was standing at my regular bus stop.

There are organizations who offer help to anyone who wants it. Truly want it. Street people who don't want to get straight, get a job, get sober, give something back...whatever...no helping them. Living under a bridge is a life choice for some and bleeding heart liberals in this city will not admit that.

I moved from California to Oregon in 1960.I moved back to the State of Jefferson in February 2012. Enough is enough.

dm wrote: Street people who don't want to get straight, get a job, get sober, give something back...whatever...no helping them.

That's so true. The hard-core disruptive people are often (not always, but often) the folks who aren't interested in the charitable services, or get kicked out due to their refusal to not take drugs. Or they have a dog, or too much stuff.

Or they want to stay with their boyfriend or girlfriend. &c. Rules are just too much to take. At some level, they've made a choice to keep living this way. Fine, but do we have to practically advertise for them? Don't give them a reason to leave Santa Monica.

Incidentally, now that Old Town / Pearl has a "wet" residential shelter, I wonder how it's working? Haven't heard much about it lately. Does anybody know the scoop? I'll be interested to see if this helps, or exacerbates the problem.

I think this conversation from Pulp Fiction is appropriate:

Jules: Well, that's what I've been sitting here contemplating. First, I'm going to deliver this case to Marcellus, then, basically, I'm just going to walk the Earth.

Vincent: What'cha mean, "walk the earth"?

Jules: You know, like Caine in Kung Fu: walk from place to place, meet people, get into adventures.


Vincent: So you decided to be a bum?

Jules: I'll just be Jules, Vincent; no more, no less.

Vincent: No, Jules. You've decided to be a bum. Just like those pieces of **** out there who beg for change, sleep in garbage bins and eat what I throw away. They got a name for that, Jules: it's called "a bum". And without a job, a residence or legal tender, that's exactly what you're going to be: a ****ing bum.

What is a "wet" shelter?

I challenge everyone in Portland who really believes these panhandlers are so helpless and pitiful ,to take in at least 2 for every spare room they may have in their home. The entire 'homeless' population could be housed tomorrow if certain folks put their money where mouths are.
How's that going to work out for ya?

Pom Mom, The Bud Clark Commons allows residents to use drugs and alcohol inside the residence. The goal is "harm reduction", i.e. getting treatment to people who might otherwise reject (or be ejected from) dry shelters.

Some background:

Here's Vancouver BC's "harm reduction," except they let people inject narcotics:



If anyone's seen their infamous skid row, or been to it, it makes Old Town look like Disneyland. No joke.

I'm lukewarm to wet houses, but Vancouver's government-sponsored injection facility and lax enforcement of open air drug use is an example of failing up.

It's reduced their out of control HIV and Hepatitis C, but it's a total failure in the end.

The "compassionate" idiots who run that place want to de-stigmatize drug use are ironically killing people and trapping them into addiction.

What's even more funny are drug treatment facilities next to large drug markets, like Old town.

What's next, an AA meeting in a bar?

I feel sorry for anybody trying to run a business downtown. There's a really obnoxious group of street "kids" (guessing some are in their mid 20s) frequenting 3rd by the Bijou/Stumptown. Homelessness is not a crime, but the cursing and threats at people who won't give them money are. Same with the unlicensed, not current on their shots pit bulls they have. I'll put in a plug for Street Roots - while some of their vendors are as obnoxious as your most annoying canvasser, most of them are actually trying to get back on their feet and working for a honest dollar. But back to the main point, if you have a choice between getting gouged by SmartPark/Ellis McCoy and a pack of kids cursing at you, or free parking at Bridgeport and dealing with some snooty soccer moms, I'll take the latter any day.

Don't comment often. But we go into Portland even less. Exactly for reasons cited.

Last Sunday had business in NW 21st area. But it was early afternoon, so we thought about a late lunch downtown. After a half hour of being re-directed, mis-directed, and hit up for money at lights, we thought the better of things. Both my wife and I made a vow: no more of our money will be spent - not a dime - in downtown Portland. We've had it. And I am native, just like the guy that wrote Hales.

Up in Seattle the Visitors and Convention Bureau is asking business owners to send pictures and descriptions of "unsafe activity" to city officials...good for them, hope it leads to some response! http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2019380153_disorder09m.html

I feel sorry for anybody trying to run a business downtown.

Don't worry, between the subject matter in this posting, and the business-surly policies and practices of the City of Portland, it's a dwindling set of people that you are declaring compassion for.

How many years ago was it that Michael Powell (Powell's Bookstore) spearheaded virtually the same campaign?

Downtown Denizen:

It's too narrow a focus to think that there are only two types of homeless people who have substance abuse problems: those that want to get out of that life, and those that don't. Everyone who eventually seeks help, at one point did not seek help. Everyone who is a substance abuser chose to use; until they choose not to, I think we should do what we can to encourage them to make that choice to get help.

It wasn't the first homeless "Plan", but in 1984 Mayor Bud Clark started The Homeless 12 Point Plan. Now we've worked up to the Homeless 10 Year Plan instituted in 2004. We're close to the end of that Plan.

What will it be next? I'm sure Fish and other commissioners will think of some new name with the same results.

I don't even have to see the reply (if there is one) from Charlie to know what it'll say. "Dear So-and-So. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about some of the challenges facing our downtown area. For the past year, as I have campaigned for mayor, I have received the generous input from thousands of people, from all walks of life, and from every corner of our city, all of whom want to make our city a more prosperous and enjoyable place to live. The next mayor of Portland will face many challenges, but I am grateful to know that I will be able to count on the experiences and skills of so many of our fellow citizens. Thanks again for your comments, and I look forward to the chance to represent you as Mayor for the next four years."

Etc. etc.

Well, we have homeless ending with Clark Commons, right? At a cost of over $280 thousand per room. Will Fish's next Plan have the "Fish House" at over $380 thousand per room? Or will already existing laws be enforced?

From City Hall's perspective...you are just a NIMBY.

This is very likely true. And many of City Hall's most fawning constituents would characterize complaints like the ones aired in this blog's comment section as "ridiculous" or "not well thought out."

I was recently accosted by a troll/"Young Creative" on Twitter who used that exact language to marginalize my (very valid) issues with certain local cyclists.

We are expected to like crap service, declining culture and crap government, and if we do not, we can easily be written off as "ridiculous." Or "conservative."

I don't like all the street bums for two reasons. First, many are kids and we show no concern or compassion for them by allowing them to throw their lives away. Their lifestyle benefits neither them or our country. Second, their behavior and appearance is offensive to me and insults my work ethic while I pay for all of the things that support their lifestyle. It's a screwed up mess and when I retire, I am moving back to a part of the country where this nonsense isn't rewarded.

35 years ago, I lived in inner NE Portland (Tillamook, off Williams). I walked everywhere, at any time, day or night - no worries.

25 years ago, I lived in NW (Marshall off 23rd). Same deal.

Back in the day, I could hike down to Last Hurrah, Sack's Front Avenue, and other venues without ever once encountering an issue.

About a decade ago, I stopped going into downtown Portland. I won't spend a nickel there, nor any time there. Not due to fear, but disgust.

I wonder if the rich getting so much richer and the poor getting so much poorer, Bush whacked, could have anything to do with it? Nah, it can't happen here.
And if it did it couldn't have any actual personal effect on people's character, people are born the way they are born. Some choose to enrich themselves and some don't, it just is what it is.
Maybe the banker jamming of lending and borrowing and politicized finances hogties businesses trying to make jobs except in the military industrial complex. Heck, those bums could always get a job: Join the military. Fight wars and die for no reason except it floats the stock market boat. But the military is honorable enough, and the pay is family-wage or better -- it's good money, murder pays well.


Not addiction, or laziness, or the fact that an itinerant "job free" lifestyle appeals to a small minority of twenty-somethings.

At what future date (2050?) can we stop blaming George Bush?

Mister Tee: funniest Bush-blaming is in the book I am currently reading: The Cursing Mommie's Book of Days. It is also the funniest book I have ever read.

Thanks, Sally.

I'll get it from the Library soon.

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