From Right 2 Survive. Nov 12.
As tonight’s deadline for the city’s eviction of Occupy Portland from Chapman and Lownsdale Squares approaches, Right 2 Survive would like to thank Occupy Portland for their important work educating the public about the inequities inherent in our economic system – work that we hope will continue whatever the outcome of tonight’s events. We at Right 2 Survive support Occupy Portland and the larger Occupy Wall Street movement to which it belongs in its efforts to shine light on the pressures facing the 99% as more of our world’s wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. With the number of illegal foreclosures on the rise and the ongoing criminalization of houseless people in cities across the U.S., the right to occupy public space and the ability to provide a space for people to stay without profit is something we should all be fighting for.
Some commentary has unfavorably compared Occupy Portland to the rest area Right 2 Dream Too, mischaracterizing Occupy as a movement gone bad and R2DToo as a space that is working well. While R2DToo is a project of Right 2 Survive, we reject accounts that disparage one in favor of the other. Rights 2 Survive stands in solidarity with both movements and recognizes that they spring from the same root causes. Unhoused people participate in both, yet the media continues to cast this in a negative light with regard to Occupy Portland. What they don’t report is how many of Portland’s unhoused community has been helped by their involvement with Occupy Portland. The media has not reported the number of people who have detoxed at the camp, how many have accessed services – including medical and mental health care and addiction treatment – that are unavailable elsewhere. The waiting list for treatment centers are longer than three weeks and homeless shelters are full, with waiting lists of approximately three months. How does either the media or the City of Portland expect Occupy Portland to fix issues that the city, with all its resources, refuses to fund adequately? What Occupy Portland and Right 2 Dream Too have in common is providing a safe, low-cost and peer-supported means for unhoused people to find safety, rest and stability – something the city has been unable to provide.
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 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.
As both Occupy Portland and R2DToo face pressure from the city to shut down we hope that the city and police will consider what they would feel like if someone showed up at their home and took their warm safe bed away from them.