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A criticism of city policies regarding homelessness/housing in general, and a defense/call for support of Dignity Village.

Everything that is most eccentric in man, the gipsy in
him, can surely be summed up in these two syllables:

This evening, the gardens are marshalling their ranks of
great dusky plants that look like nomadic encampments in
the heart of cities."

-Louis Aragon, Paris Peasant

Dignity Village, which grew from the "Out of the Doorways" campaign
sponsored by Street Roots newspaper, is a homeless community taking direct
action in the struggle for living space. The first tent of what was then
known as Camp Dignity went up on December 16th, 2000. Since then the city
has forced the community to move five times, and during each of these moves
a parade of shopping carts increased the public and media awareness of their
actions and intentions.

Eventually the community occupied land owned by the Oregon Department of
Transportation under a freeway bridge, and thus Dignity Village was born.
With rules against drugs, alcohol and violence, in addition to the village
providing its own security, the community grew to its largest size. After
residing there for months the villagers were served an eviction notice by
the city, supposedly acting on a complaint. Under threat of arrest, and in
the face of hostility by the Mayor and city council, Dignity Village was
forced to move a sixth time to a city-sanctioned parcel known as Sunderland
Yard, a remote site located by an airport and prison. This fenced-in asphalt
lot used for fall leaf composting is a necessarily transitory location.

A small number of villagers established their own additional campsite on the
so-called Field of Dreams near the Willamette River. During this land
occupation the Homeless Liberation Front issued a set of demands, which
included "ending the fascist war on the poor, converting all new luxury
condos into affordable housing, banning evictions, eliminating park curfews,
acknowledging the freedom to sleep anywhere, and freeing political prisoners
Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier." Unfortunately, these campers were
issued citations and forced to move by the police.

During the most recent eviction the city council revealed its fright at the
idea of more widespread land occupations by the homeless. They want Dignity
Village to be a one-off effort ending in failure, and are putting it
entirely upon the villagers to find possible locations for future residence.
And all this to the benefit of the city council and the overcrowded,
bureaucratic shelter system. The callous tyranny of Portland's political
elite, and its business peers, is exposed as they continually make villagers
move with an underlying official sadism and disregard. Meanwhile, they
masturbate over their plans for gentrification of downtown, North and
Northeast Portland. They dream of well-scrubbed, white consumers and
commuters bustling about in a set made for working and shopping, with an
ever-expanding police presence. Rising property values only show the general
decline in human values that has accompanied the overall crisis of modern

Until we are able to live on the Earth without restraint, and as long as the
land is owned for profit, there will always be outsiders and those excluded,
those who cannot pay the ever-increasing price of survival. Dignity Village,
and similar villages in Seattle and Los Angeles, provide glimpses of how the
poor and propertyless can take direct action to further their common
interests, and create some semblance of a true community. This contrasts
with the isolated housing system where landlords and property tax must be
paid on time, where neurotic neighbors never speak to each other, and where
people become more out of touch with their imaginations and the elements but
more in touch with the worlds of consumerism and television. This says
nothing about grotesque city planning which gives precedence to commercial
space, office buildings and congested streets rather than a diverse,
self-created living environment which might include tree houses, cob
buildings, ecologically friendly design, etc. Which is why social revolution
is more needed now than ever, to let us be free people on free land.

We encourage people to visit Dignity Village and support its long-term
vision. It's a threat by example, which deserves to spread! The current site
is at NE 33rd and Sunderland. For more information see
www.outofthedoorways.org and www.streetroot.org, or write to Street Roots
newspaper at 1231 SW Morrison, Portland, Oregon 97205.

Portland Surrealist Group
October 2001

Street Roots website correction 07.Oct.2001 21:55


The website for the Street Roots newspaper is actually