"Like all interesting people and places, Portland, Oregon is a multifaceted character," writes Aaron Gilbreath. "There is Portland the socially progressive utopia of artists, food carts and environmentally conscious urbanism. And there is the Portland of pretension, heroin addiction, racial separation and rampant homelessness. The city occupies a county that has over 15,000 homeless people. That figure includes not only people who sleep on the street and in shelters, but those who sleep on friends’ couches and in cars and in transitional housing. In 2009, Oregon ranked first in the nation for homelessness per capita."
Gilbreath, a Portland-based writer (and occasional Mercury freelancer), become troubled that "the sheer scale of homelessness here means that you can easily became immune to the presence of it." In 2011, he conducted a series of on-the-street interviews with homeless Portlanders, and the resulting conversations are currently running on Chicago-based literary journal Curbside Splendor.
Gilbreath is a good writer—which is why I occasionally pay him to write book reviews!—and the interviews reflect an interesting range of experiences. The first one is from a 23-year-old who's about to catch a train back to Boise to get a Cometbus tattoo. Which is... aw. There are some funny moments, too. From the second interview:
But it’s pretty easy to get along here, relatively, because there are a lot of resources?
Greg: We have a lot of resources, and a lot of drag queens.
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