Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau, has put out a statement addressing Cameron Whitten's hunger strike outside city hall, now on Day 49. Fish, who met privately with Whitten a few weeks ago in Terry Schrunk Plaza, has been publicly quiet about Whitten and his demands (relief for Right 2 Dream Too, a housing levy, and end to Portland's camping ban, etc.), many of which fall, at least partially, under Fish's domain.
While some of his colleagues have tried negotiating with Whitten, only to give up amid frustration (see: Dan Saltzman), Fish is taking a different tack. He's not getting in the weeds over Whitten's proposals. Instead, he's repeating a lot of what he told Whitten when they met. Basically, he says he wants Whitten to recognize and join the fight that nonprofits and volunteers and government works already are waging on behalf of the safety net and to get involved.
As many of you know, a young man named Cameron Whitten has been staging a hunger strike in front of City Hall for over a month to draw support for people experiencing homelessness in our community.
When I met with Cameron recently, I told him I admired his passion for the issues of housing and homelessness, and urged him to become involved in our community’s housing movement.
Every day in this city, a coalition of advocates drawn from government, non-profits, business, philanthropy and the faith community work hard to address our local housing crisis. Their efforts are marked by the quiet determination that no problem is unsolvable. They are the unsung heroes, dedicated to serving our community’s most vulnerable.
Cameron's hunger strike has shined a light on the plight of those who live on our streets. He reminds us that every one in our city deserves a safe and decent place to call home.
I hope Cameron will end his hunger strike, get his strength back, roll up his sleeves, and join us in our fight to end homelessness.
Whitten, who showed me urine analysis results today that pretty clearly indicate he's in starvation mode, isn't planning on stopping yet. He's even hoping to raise the stakes a bit. A rally in support of his strike is planned outside city hall at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon, and it'll be drawing big names like Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith.
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