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Friday, February 7, 2014

Street Roots: Portland Leaders Shouldn't Be "Making Homeless People Public Enemy No. 1"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Here's a must-read on a cold snowy morning.

Street Roots executive director Israel Bayer just managed to put a whole year's worth of news on homelessness in perspective, posting a column today that draws from the hardship of winter weather, the next presumed steps for Right 2 Dream Too, the business lobby's failure to revive sit-lie laws, and Police Chief Mike Reese's unfortunately named "Prosper Portland."

It's titled, aptly, "A snowstorm, a tent city and Portland Police Chief Mike Reese." And it's full of good stuff (along with a strong reminder to thank the people working this week to keep people warm and safe).

First, it’s my assumption that the Portland Business Alliance and some folks downtown are mad as hell....

Their whole message, packaged in various ways, has amounted to the notion that downtown Portland’s livability is at risk unless we act now. Right now. We’ve heard it time and again, year after year. The British are coming. Damn the torpedoes. Rush the gates. The Road Warriors and homeless people are coming to town and will have a stranglehold on our city.

One of the constant messages to leverage a more robust sidewalk and other quality of life laws has been a skateboard attack at the Outdoor Store downtown this summer. A elderly employee was injured badly by a young man who was presumed to be homeless. It’s a very tragic story, and at this point, I would like to find the kid and throw him in jail for all the trouble he’s caused. But let’s be real, it was one incident.

That’s not to say something bad won’t happen again. It will. We live in a city with more than half a million people. Of course, we should constantly be working to deter violence downtown. What we shouldn’t be doing is making homeless people public enemy number one.

Now, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Downtown Portland is thriving. Tourism is at an all-time high, thriving neighborhoods have risen in the Pearl and South Waterfront, and crime is down — way down. We are a city on a hill.

When Chief Reese dropped his proposal about Portland Prosper, my first thought was, that man is going to run for mayor. My second thought was, did Mayor Charlie Hales, his direct supervisor, know about this? My third thought was, does he actually have enough gas in the tank to pull it off?

Read the whole thing here!

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