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Et Tu, Tom? Another Knife in the Back for Homeless People in Portland

Ever since taking office, Mayor Tom Potter has been walking a delicate and
difficult line between the interests of the people of this city and the
interests of those who pull the purse strings. Yesterday, alas, he stepped over onto the wrong side of that line. That's when he unveiled a plan that promises to further persecute the poor and homeless people of Portland, at the behest of the forces of gentrification.
Promising to make downtown "safer," Mayor Potter expressed a desire to rid downtown of anyone who might scare shoppers away with their naked and unabashed poverty. Assuring homeless people that, hey, this is nothing personal or anything, he launched an attack on something called "aggressive panhandling," as well as an assualt on "a small but highly visible group who don't [sic] respect Portland's laws or its core value of respect for others." By respect for others, he appears to mean respect for those with a hearty income, rather than those who are presumably beneath our respect. Because, if anything, this proposal only reifies the already ingrained disrespect Portland's business interests show toward those who cannot afford their wares. The mayor went on to outline a 5-step program for the elimination of homeless people from our streets. Oh, that isn't what he called it or anything, but that is what it amounts to.

There will be a curfew in the South park blocks, and the obligatory Public Safety Action Committee. The Committee will consist of six full-time Portland police officers, drawn from a pool of officers already known for the intolerance and violence they have shown toward homeless people. The curfew, of course, will not apply to those who seem to have a "legitimate" reason to be in the park. It will apply only to those who dare to sleep there, or who fit the profile of "troublemaker," or, if history is any guide, those who just plain scare the good citizens of Portland by the way they look. Said the mayor, "City residents will still be allowed to walk through one of our most beautiful parks, but no one will be allowed to loiter, harass visitors or use the park as their personal camp. Those who violate the curfew will be arrested." But, as always in portland, it is the officers on the street who get to determine who is there "legitimately" and who is not. It will be the people who wear tattered clothes and have no where to go who will be charged with "loitering," the people who frighten away customers because of the holes in their pockets who will be charged with "harassing visitors."

I think the phrase that bothers me the most in this statement is the part about those who "use the park as their personal camp." This seems unnecessarily venomous, and underlies a lack of any real understanding of the issues involved here. Homeless people do not even pretend to have a "personal camp," either in the South Park blocks, or anywhere. In point of fact, they do not have a personal anything. They, more than most of us know, are very much aware that the parks, like the rest of this city's supposedly public spaces, are not theirs. They have no place to sleep without harassment, no place to get away from the increasingly hostile public gaze. They cannot even sleep in the bushes next to the roaring freeway without risking fines, arrests, or worse. So it seems disheartening that the Mayor, from whom I expected better, would imply that homeless people deserve retribution for being uppity enough to try claiming a piece of the public commons as their own.

In addition to the curfew and yet another full-time police squad targeting this population, the Mayor will be allocating $500,000 for addiction treatment, plus $1.3 million for more jail space to house those who are swept into this net. Said the Mayor, "Now, when one of these people is arrested, they will be given a choice - immediate admission into a treatment program that will get them off the streets and into programs that can help, or jail." When I called the Mayor's office to find out why they are willing to spend so very much more on jail beds, I was informed that it is "because jail space is more expensive than treatment." Perhaps this is why, but I doubt it. Maybe it's because incarceration is really the goal here, not treatment. Either way, though, it sounds like jail to me. How many other populations can you think of that are arbitrarily picked up off the streets and given a choice like that?

This project is being sold to us as a necessary "law and order" response to a growing threat lurking in the heart of downtown. However, in almost the same breath yesterday, the Mayor declared that crime is actually declining steadily in downtown Portland -- down 7%. I have to ask, then, why is this expensive and ethically questionable program even necessary? So far, no response on this question has been forthcoming from city hall. I think, though, that I know the answer.

Unlike Portland's homeless population, who understand all too well that the commons is not theirs, the Portland business community seems to belive the opposite. Every public space is just a dividend in the eyes of the Portland Business Alliance, a fruit ripe for the picking. Corporate colonialists have a grand scheme to turn the park blocks into a thriving metropolitan shopping mall (which we need every bit as much as we need all those new jail beds that will make their dream possible). Homeless people are in the way of that scheme, because they do not fit the desired image. They remind people that the price of gluttony, of unbridled over-consumption, is a price often exacted from others. They make people feel guilty about having too much in a world where others have little. Poverty, in short, is bad for business. So, like every indigenous population who stands in the way of the colonialist oppressor, they will be herded into the wastelands at the outer edges of our society. In this case, rather than reservations or zoos, they will go to jail to make way for "progress."

link to speech 12.Oct.2005 16:23


The mayor's comments on this matter can be found in their entirety here:  http://www.portlandonline.com/mayor/index.cfm?&a=95066&c=38500

Why do they care? 12.Oct.2005 16:53

Scotty B.

It's kinda frustrating, you know, that so many progressives spent so much time trying to get this guy elected, and then he just goes off and does the same type a things that all other politicans do...

There's something I fundamentally don't get here. Why do they *care* if homeless people sleep in the South Park Blocks at night? I certainly don't - I've been downtown at night several times and I have yet to be attacked or bothered by any homeless citizens. I can understand why, if it occured, something like public defication might be an issue - but that's a whole separate thing from simply sleeping in the park.

I'm also not bothered by the panhandlers I see downtown every day. How are they any different than the OSPIRG people or the old men that try to hand you mini-Bibles on the PSU campus? Maybe Potter could also ban the passing out of Bibles - I'm sure *that* would make people happy. I mean, I've never, ever had a panhandler DEMAND money from me or be rude to me - it's not even an issue.

It seems to be that the working hours of our great local swine livestock could be better spent, gee, I don't know - stopping violent crime? Frankly, I think that's more of an issue that should be dealt with than *gasp*, unseemly people roaming the streets! That's not even a police matter - it's a social problem which could be "addressed" by providing more resources to help those without homes.

Aggressive panhandling is..... 12.Oct.2005 18:08


Agressive panhandling is when, for example, as you're quietly walking about downtown, minding your own busines, a disheveled person walks right up into your face and in a rude manner, asks for a dollar with their hand right out directed at your chest. Then, if you decline, especially failing to do so with a verbal "sorry", this might be followed with "fuckin asshole" as you walk on. Variations on this theme happen with unfortunate regularity downtown.

This PSAC truely doesn't seem to be directed to the vast majority of panhandlers and punks quietly and politely sitting there to cheerfully accept oftentimes much equally cheerfully volunteered donations of pocket change and bills.

True, many people of means walking through downtown could improve matters by exercising politeness and respect towards people asking for change, and this should be encouraged by educating the public about the truth of the situation that homeless people face, and making suggestions about how to decline to someone asking for change.

At the same time, it must be understood that many people are just plain scared of the raggedy people, imagining, based on personal or related experiences of friends and acquaintances, that in a second, they could become a victim of an assault on the part of someone who's appearance and demeanor offer no assurance about their integrity whatsoever. Remember, a lot of these scared people are old, frail, vulnerable or out town people who don't have the hip sensibility about the reality of city life and how to interact with street people.

In the South Park Blocks, some of the really crazy meth heads have made walking through there a nighmare. The sooner those people go, the better. For years, many other people have peaceably spent many, many hours in the park with not a lot of problems, even though they drink alcohol and smoke pot. The churches have graciously, though to a large degree unwillingly and unintentionally afforded their steps as relatively safe sleeping spots.

Apart from the relatively benign homeless users of the park, there is the other really evil contingent. These are the folks that are there day in day out turning the park into a near open illegal drug marketplace. Some of these, like the crazed meth heads, are paranoid,intimidating and aggressive. How anyone imagines these people have any right to be there doing this business is beyond me.

I'm not too crazy about the Portland Business communities ideas in general, but they and Portland residents have cut these agressive types lots of slack over the years and things haven't got better as a result. Something has got to be done.

The jail thing is so costly, and useful as only an interim solution. The VSAT is only as good as the options for long term ongoing counseling, guidance, employment and housing available to them after they complete the program. Too many of these programs, expensive programs, are just short term effective whitewash jobs for the publics benefit.

Greater employment opportunities need to be created for the homeless people, the junkies, theives, etc, so that once, after they've gotten the help they need to be strong enough to resist the draw of the life, they have some means to provide for themselves in a way that will be fulfilling and rewarding.

All these people and the sitution surrounding them are the consequence of a fundamentally competitive rather than co-operative culture. I don't know if things will really ever change until the public gets that point.

I think... 12.Oct.2005 18:14


Maybe we should do something about this. And i do not mean a meaningless march to city hall. Maybe to show solidarity with the homeless we could have a sleepover in the south park blocks. If we can get 100 people together to do this, the police will either arrest us all (which would look ridiculous to anyone watching and in the news the next day, yes we hate the corprate media but here we can use them to help us out) or leave us alone. I think it would send a real message to the city that people arent okay with this. It wouldn't be violent or mean spirited, it would be more of a party, we can do all the things you do when you go camping, just in the city!

Any takers?

I too am disappointed in Tom over this 12.Oct.2005 18:29


It seems as though he's morphing into a Vera Katz on us. I'm so disappointed!

i luv campouts 12.Oct.2005 18:48


Potter's plan is an expensive, alienating bandaid on a huge societal disease.
Let's go loiter

park blocks sit-in. sign me up. 12.Oct.2005 18:57


yeah, past bedtime in the parkblocks.
reelection is around the corner for Potter and he'd have to deal with a sit-in ever so politely. good idea, lets do it.

A camp out! 12.Oct.2005 19:14


Yes, that actually sounds like a very good idea! Apparently, the proposed $1.3 million bought the city access to 57 beds in the county jail just for the purpose of putting away the people targeted by this program. If we can get more than 57 people together to take up some space... Yeh, I think this is actually a very good idea.

A sleepover it is then! 12.Oct.2005 21:12

A. Leeas

It is a good idea. Maybe we can get some kids from PSU involved. PSU is, after all, so near the park blocks. Maybe the campus greens? campus dems?
There are currently 280 unsolved homicides in this city (PPD link:  http://www.portlandonline.com/police/index.cfm?c=35696)
To be wasting time harrassing homeless people is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
It is morally wrong. Are you out there Potter? This is about twisted, out of wack priorities, and it IS MORALLY WRONG. Homeless people have a right to exist.

How sleeping in the park rates 12.Oct.2005 23:26


Scotty B: Wonder why people care if people sleep in the park blocks at night? Well, I imagine many don't. In fact there is nothing inherently wrong with people in need utilizing public space not in use during the night for basic needs such as sleeping. This practice has actually gone on for long periods of time and continues to do so in SoPkBlks to this day. The majority of those sleeping in the park have shown the ability to do so quietly and appreciatively in a non-disruptive manner.

As is often the case, there are exceptions. Take for example the exceptions amongst those sleeping on the church steps such as:

Those persons who: Start fights amongst others sleeping there, sustaining noise disruptive to others in the neighborhood trying to sleep, use and sell drugs and alcohol to excess, puke, urinate and excrete on the steps, landscape, and in the park itself. Who is there to manage the conduct of these people for the benefit of everyone?

To some extent, people do roll out on the benches to sleep, or the lawns, but to a much lesser degree than on the steps. Why is that? Well, because those who do take a greater risk of being predated upon by the same irresponsible element that has ruined the option of sleeping on the church steps and has now prompted potter to call out the cavalry and waste a lot of money putting these creeps up in the jail.

There is some consolation in hearing that you personally have not had a bad experience being bothered at night so far, or anytime by homeless people or panhandlers, and we can be thankful if this continues to be the case. But you know what? Not everybody is just like you. Bullies, jerks and predators respond differently to different people. They target people they think they can intimidate. Why should some frail person, somebody timid, or little kids have to psych themselves up to pass by jerks zonked out on whatever, or desperate to sell drugs in order to take a walk through the park?

Opinions are expressed on this website from people that supposedly hate corp news, yet seem to read the corp news and from it draw unequivocal conclusions connecting the stated concerns of officials and their intended response with what they seem to be absolutely convinced can only be a conspiracy to oppress homeless people of their rights. This implies a very narrow, occluded awareness of what is going on that is equal to that of the Portland Business Alliance at its own worst extreme.

Where is the fire that used to exist in the Portland activist communities belly? Bound up in wacky ideas to protest prohibition of sleeping and the imposition of curfew in the park blocks without a realistic awareness of the activities occuring that prompt those measures it seems.

Here's a suggestion: I always thought it would be an interesting idea if the churches, unwilling hosts for the church step sleepers, had something like church step monitors: somebody to come around about bedtime, 10:30, around there, offer a welcome and good tidings, make an informal introduction, state rules, regulations, etc.

Throughout the night, they could come around kind of like a night watchman checking to see things were alright, and helping to get the sleepers up in the morning and the steps in shape for the days business. People really concerned about the plight of genuinely homeless people seriously determined to improve their lives would certainly, finding merit in such a program, be willing to volunteer. I just might give that idea some more thought.

Class War 13.Oct.2005 08:32

Working Class Mama

$500,000 is nothing for treatment. That would help literally only a handful of people. Besides, without the creation and funding of more treatment facilities, there is no way they will fit. As it is, it's a 6 month wait for a spot. There will be no choice. Only jail. If treatment really is cheaper and more beneficial, then it seems to me that we should be sending folks there. More bang for the buck. Instead of having them rot away in criminal facilities. Either Potter is a pretty stupid guy or his true allegience is to the Portland Business Alliance, police, and the prison industrial complex. Not the citizens of this city.

Another very disturbing point is that I've never heard of lock-up time for being homeless. It's usually catch and release with a fine. Now it comes with a prison sentence?! Poverty is not a crime! This madness must be stopped!

More on "aggressive Panhandling" 13.Oct.2005 08:47


"Saint" explains, "Aggressive panhandling is when, for example, as you're quietly walking about downtown, minding your own busines, a disheveled person walks right up into your face and in a rude manner, asks for a dollar with their hand right out directed at your chest. Then, if you decline, especially failing to do so with a verbal 'sorry,' this might be followed with 'fuckin asshole' as you walk on." Thanks for that information, Saint. Still, I'm not sure I find that explanation entirely satisfying. In the first place, a prohibition on such behavior seems counter to the First Amendment. But more than that, I do not think other people necessarily owe us any duty to stay within our comfort zone.

By that, I guess I'm talking about the rest of what Saint says: "it must be understood that many people are just plain scared of the raggedy people, imagining, based on personal or related experiences of friends and acquaintances, that in a second, they could become a victim of an assault on the part of someone who's appearance and demeanor offer no assurance about their integrity whatsoever."

Yes, many people are, indeed, "scared of the raggedy people." Just as many white people are scared of Black people, especially when they gather on street corners or dare to walk through white neighborhoods. Do you see my point? People tend to be scared of anyone who seems different from themselves. We cannot just go around passing laws designed to protect us from "perceived" fears based on what other people look like. We should be beyond that urge. As I tried to say above, I think, if you are uncomfortable around "raggedy people," then the burden is yours. It is up to you to learn to live with diversity, or just stay home if you cannot get past this. The point is, it is your problem. Do not export it onto other people just because they have less power than you do in this society.

In fact, I have often wondered about the term "aggressive panhandling." I've wandered downtown streets for years, and I've been asked for spare change on many occasions. Frankly, when I have it to share, I share it. And when I don't, I don't. Nobody's ever made me feel threatened or intimidated over it. An acquaintance of mine, though, from the suburbs, feels threatened and intimidated any time an obviously homeless person approaches her at all. Is that reason enough to target homeless people? Does it help to know that she used to feel the same way about black people? Should we bring back laws to deal with that too? Or should the burden be upon her, to learn to live with the many different people who are part of this community?

I like what Scotty B says above, when he asks how the targeted behavior is any different from the high pressure tactics of the OSPIRG people, or the people who push Bibles. Because when I think of "aggressive panhandling," I think of corporate privateers who will not take "no" for an answer. Their hands are held out in my face every minute of every day, and I cannot always fight them off. I'm talking about the corporateers who took control of the city's power supply, and extort huge sums of money to keep us warm through the winter. "Pay up, or freeze to death." I'm talking about those who affix giant murals of their brand-name products to every surface in town, so that I can't walk a single block without being subjected to their strident but trivial sales pitches. Or those who leap across our television sets, preying on our insecurities -- convincing us that we cannot be worthy human beings unless we buy their products. Or those who send their junk mail to my door, or hire telemarketers to call me at all hours. I'm talking about privateers who appropriate huge swaths of land downtown to put up yet another Safeway store, yet another fast food chain. Or those who steal the warm feelings we once had for public spaces and public events, by affixing their corporate brand names to them -- PGE park, the SAFEWAY blues festival, the PEPSICO rose festival.

These aggressive and hounding sales pitches intrude upon my quality of life more than any homeless person asking for a quarter. And they are far more dangerous. In my child's school, Channel One beams advertisements for toxic junk food and military recruitment ads into impressionable young minds, while killer Coke machines linger tantalizingly in the hallways. As the saying goes, God damn the pusher. Will Mayor Potter be doing anything about those urban social ills? Or is it only the people who likely can't fight back that he takes on? Will he take my side when I go to the neighborhood school to demand that they turn off Channel One and remove the coke machines from the hallways? Or is it only the Portland Business Alliance who has his ear these days?

smoke & mirrors 13.Oct.2005 09:02


The curfew is bogus, dangerous and a waste of money.
People who are being hassled in one place just move elsewhere.
There are already laws sufficient to take in those doing harm to "civilized society".
There is too much potential for police to read this as a big GO sign to harrass, tazer, spray, shoot and otherwise assault the homeless community.

Classist assholes 13.Oct.2005 11:38


I'm tired of all of the classist assholes claiming the city is theirs. Rich people think they are targets for homeless people, and they say things like "they threatened me for money!" Christ on a fucking cracker, that is nothing. They ask for money all you have to do is say I'm sorry or, I don't have any. Don't make up bullshit as if your life was at stake. You think that was bad, your little run-ins with the homeless. Well think of what it is like for them. Imagine living on the cold streets and having medical problems that the state won't help you with. You try to survive day by day asking for change. And then, when all the rich people are in their beds you try to sleep on the cold wet grass. Lights shine in your eyes and before you even know it, you are being beat up. You get clubbed in the face, and become knocked out and wake up in some dark alley with tickets slapped on you. No, these actions aren't done from your scary homeless people, it is done by our loyal police officers. The ones that are trying to "maintain the peace". So when it comes to panhandling your just outright offended. How about all of you people that are so offended by panhandling spend a day on the streets. Try that O.K. Dress in the smelliest and worst clothes you can find and watch the change in how everyone treats you. Watch how you become meaningless and lower than garbage. You can tell me if that is as bad as being asked for change from a depressed face every once and a while.

I myself am middle-upperclass if you really want to categorize people like that. My school is downtown so you can expect I have a lot of run ins with homeless people. Not fucking once have they said "Fuck you", or called me names. I have never felt threatened by any of them. What I do feel threatened by is the police that patrol that area. I find that the worse I dress, the more threatened I feel. This is outright classism. People like xyz are assholes. They think just because people are homeless they do drugs or sell them. That is what they felt about black people. That's called stereotyping people into categories. Where we think of ourselves as better than them. Even the democrats are classist. They say "were anti racism, were anti sexism", but they don't see what's wrong with classism. They think the more money you have the better you are and the smarter you are. Well answer me this, are teachers dumb and worthless, because they get paid shit? The jobs in which you help your community the most, you get paid the least. A lot of poor people I find make more just decisions because money isn't a factor in their life. They don't have HUGE jobs that consume their every day life to the point where they cannot talk to their children. They don't have time to talk to their wives or husbands so divorces happen. Is money really worth all of that? Is showing off your house and your car so important that you give up your social life? Some people are poor because they choose to be poor and there is nothing wrong with that at all. So, when you think of these types of people as druggies just because they don't have money, that is classist. What makes a rich person better than a poor person? Absolutely nothing. Reflect on some of the stuff you people say. When people start waking up and noticing that their stereotyping is wrong they'll reflect on some of the stuff they said. This is exactly what has happened with the stereotyping of races, sex, and starting to happen with sexuality.

Just reflect.

Sleeping, sitting, and asking are not crimes! 13.Oct.2005 14:18


Sure, panhandlers can be annoying and scary to some people, but rich white folks who drive SUVs and buy Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly books are more annoying and scarier, in my opinion. Yet no one's trying to kick them out of the city. Homeless and mentally disabled people and addicts usually don't have the resources to fight back. So they get screwed.
P.S. I am ALL FOR the campout and know others who'd be interested. We should do it!

This isn't really about panhandling or the homeless. 13.Oct.2005 17:06


Its about a bunch of thugs who are using the South Park Blocks as headquarters to run their rein of oppressive masculinist behavior. No, I'm not talking about the police, I'm talking about a gang of hostile, violent, smiley-carrying, pieces of shit. They don't care what class you are from. These aren't revolutionaries. They aren't homeless. They aren't the poor. They aren't panhandlers. They're just thugs, bullies, and tweekers. They don't care about you or your revolution. They aren't class conscious.

This has been going on for over a year now. The true shock is that it took the opening of the new wing of the art musuem to get the police to care.

Solidarity 13.Oct.2005 17:07

not really important

I'm homeless. I've squatted in Portland a few times, at one point for 8 months straight. I helped start FNB on Thursdays down there...I think I have a good view on the 'homeless' situation down there....Anyway. I think that building solidarity with the homeless (the ones that care to) is a good step forward...but forward to WHAT? I think keeping a common goal in mind may be in order. Maybe for just ethical treatment of the homeless for starters. Many people that are homeless are mentally disturbed, and usually do a good amount of their time in jail as a result of the police being incabable of indentifying them as so, or them just not caring..(besides, it DOES justify their exsistance..) and also maybe something to counter the negative image of the homeless as criminals/violent/etc....because that is one of the main things that make people scared...maybe some documentaries, etc...mostly like PR type stuff. The sleep-over is great...they are doing a similar action in Flagstaff, AZ on the 15th, I believe.
And the 'agressive panhandling' thing is ridiculous. The amount of people that I've witnessed/known to actually GO that far as to chase someone down and demand change is 1/10000. Nothing. So what? They're assholes. There are asses of all classes...its just easier to pick on and scapegoat those that can't defend themselves socially...and anyone whom is 'annoyed' by these people need to be less sensitive and grow up. Its not too hard to ignore negative remarks from someone you dont even know, folks. If you're offended by being called an asshole from not giving change, you probably have a guilty conscience and probably ARE an asshole. I've busked/spanged for going on 10 years on and off and get alot of classist/racist and straight up ignorant responses...one of my favorites being the cliche "Get a job" ...how could one possibly assume I DONT have one? I've had jobs where I STILL had to ask for change/fly a sign just to break even. So my response it usually "Why don't YOU get one?" ...it usually envokes a strange look on their face and sometimes a "I HAVE one!" and I'll say "Well PROVE IT!" ...just to point out their statement as being unrealistic to themselves, and to me....and some people get even violent. I had to Mace three drunk fratboys one night in Santa Barbara, CA on State St. because (at the time I was on crutches w/ a broken foot) they decided to start jumping up and down effectively smashing my crutches and them trying to fight me...I defended myself aginst their classist violence. The police came and THEY went to jail. My point being is that if you had all the homeless writing in letters daily to the mayor, you'd have many more accounts of violence/intimidation/harassment than on the opposite side. So hug a bum, hang out under a bridge, drink wine, and talk...get to know your homeless population and transient population, show some grassroots solidarity in the most effective way possible: ON THE STREET!

I luv campouts 13.Oct.2005 20:59


Dear HLF,
Don't know how to contact you direct, so
What next?
tag, you're it - lead on

Homeless Liberation Front (HLF) 13.Oct.2005 22:22

Dan Newth promandan@hotmail.com

The HLF was started at street roots when the City dropped enforcement of the No camping law for a short time. Folks like Brian Pollard, Jack Tafari, Israel Bayer, J.P.,Layla, Mike Dee,Richard Smith, Mike Parker and other folks in the old street roots office decided to take action and start camping outside. It was a beautiful piece of work dreamed of and initiated by homeless people. Instead of letting the economic limitations and Police oppression dominate and overwhelm them they organized a camp out. That camp out is still going on in the form of Dignity Village. They have organized them selves into a politcal entity and through persistance, patients, hope and a hell of a lot of help from the larger community they have survived.
It is a miricle that has only been sustained in Portland because of the incredible potienial for love this city nurtures. Vera Katz couldn't kill it, Lars Larson couldn't hate it to death and it will be another miricle if we can recreate it.
God bless

If you want to find the HLF today call street roots at 503.228.5657 and ask for Dignity Villages number.

reading potters statement 14.Oct.2005 04:03


I've read potters 10/11/05 statement and am still thinking about what he said, the direction he is sending the efforts of all who will be involved in this initiative, and how effective the results might be.

First off, for all those concerned that these efforts are going to simply consist of a general attempt to eradicate from downtown, all panhandlers and homeless people so as to prettify it to the satisfaction of the business community, that would not seem to be the case. In fact, Potter seems to be very clear and specific about exactly who represents the source of the concern, as he states in this excerpt from the statement below:

"I want the PSAC to target those who are using our downtown streets to sell drugs, and remove them.

I want the PSAC to stop aggressive panhandling. It is not illegal to panhandle in Portland. But those who use illegal intimidation and threats, or who illegally block our sidewalks while panhandling will not be tolerated.

Within 6 months, I want to see a continuing drop in property crimes and car prowls, drinking in public and prostitution.

And within 6 months, I want to hear people saying: "Downtown Portland just feels better now."" (End)

I'm wondering quite a lot about the ultimate effectiveness and the business of these PSAC's he's talking about, but what he refers to in terms of their supposedly already proven success in other neighborhoods sounds intiguing and hopeful in this excerpt from his statement below:

"Third, beginning this week we will assign 6 Central Precinct officers full-time to implement the PSAC's recommendations. They will develop relationships with the homeless community, social service providers, neighbors, businesses and private security officers. This kind of intensive, community-focused model has proven successful in PSACs we have developed with the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods; Southwest Neighbors Inc; Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition, and the North Portland Neighborhood Services (NPNS). Another is being developed in East Portland, and we believe our downtown PSAC will be just as successful." (End)

(Couldn't Potter should consider employing the services of Dingo Dizmal's Alberta Street Clown Posse on the pink bikes to eradicate the riff-raff from the SoPkBlks...if it worked on mississippi st....)

Prisons and jails are never really going to cut it as an option towards creating a livable society. They only keep people who aren't cutting it in the mainstream from direct contact with the outside public. As population continues to grow, eventually, if it hasn't happened already, we'll never be able to build jails and prisons big enough to hold everyone society doesn't care to deal with in a more reasonable way.

On another issue, I ask myself, "Who does downtown belong to? Who do public spaces belong to" They belong to all of us....the rich guy from the west hills to the homeless kids from finnegans alcove (just recently gated, thank you very much), to the rancher who comes to visit from LaGrande Oregon to the native american from Warm Springs, etc, etc.. It becomes possible to sustain a livable community when people have the right to a reasonable expectation of civil conduct from each other in the community.

This is just simple manners and commmon courtesy. It's everybody's responsibility to insure that a reasonable expectation of civil conduct can be depended upon. Panhandlers and other members of the general public who don't get this thing about manners and commmon courtesy need to get some education. It's worth it to spend money and effort helping them to accomplish this. Doing so will save everyone a lot of misery, indignity, and money, and fewer people will have to be locked up.

As for people we know of who are uncomfortable with another person or group different from them, the burden shouldn't be on that person alone to work it out for themselves. It is not just their problem, it's everyone's. It is in our common best interest to make every possible effort to ensure that everybody is comfortable with, understands and respects one another rather than contemptuously dismissing them to their homes to grow progressively warped with every passing day, month, year and decade, periodically spilling out of their prison to further pollute the community we all share.

Portlanders hate the 1st amendment 14.Oct.2005 12:00

no surprised

Wow. A curfew? Imposed treatment? Portland values? What values? Hating the poor?

What about freedom of assembly? Freedom of association? Freedom of Movement?

Anyone arrested under this new oppressive tactic should find a lawyer and sue.

I am so glad I left Portland. Once in a while I check this site and I am shocked each time by the oppressive tactics of the police and the government. I'm sure to tell everyone I meet how racist and classist Portland is and how much Portlanders hate the 1st amendment.

The good people outraged by these tactice have a lot of work to do - I hope they do it.

southern comfort zones 14.Oct.2005 20:45

n trestin

The discussion on this site, re the lack of comfort afforded persons who feel accosted by "aggressive" panhandlers (if you are not struck, it is not aggressive) reminded me of just how comforted I was by the images coming out of the gulf, as poor and black (usually the same, in that part of our "democracy.") people were herded into cow palaces to waste away while the casinos and other rich bastards managed to get their wealth out of town. Much in this country does not comfort me, but the sight of a homeless, poor, or verbally challenging ne'er do well in a public park or on a public sidewalk discomforts me only in the fact that such conditions exist. Merely moving the less fortunates to another part of town, or another place in the country does nothing to increase my comfort. These folks should be in our face every day, many times a day, until we do something positive to eliminate the problem, rather than the symptom.
Get a clue, Potter, before it is too late, and we lose yet another well meaning politician to the money wielding influences of the downtown. There is a whole, great big city here.

if you are not struck, it is not aggressive? I don't think so. 15.Oct.2005 03:07


n trestin: I want to respond to a couple points you made in your comment:

(1)"....re the lack of comfort afforded persons who feel accosted by "aggressive" panhandlers (if you are not struck, it is not aggressive)". Being struck goes way beyond a reasonable definition of aggressive panhandling. Being struck is assault. Agressive panhandling falls somewhere in the area of harrassment, verbal or physical.

As you say in your comment, "These folks should be in our face every day, many times a day, until we do something positive to eliminate the problem, rather than the symptom". Well yeah, an average person going about downtown shouldn't have a problem with a civil behaving homeless person sitting there trying to rustle up some change, but no, people should not have to deal with the "verbally challenging ne'er do well" with any kind of regularity.

In downtown and the parks, it is not reasonable to expect all the different kinds of people of widely varying age, strength, and self assurance to deal with such types. People have no way of knowing that an aggressive panhandler, particularly one that physically approaches people, isn't going to haul off and hit them. People should have the right to expect a certain reasonable standard of conduct from others when they go about downtown. It's possible, knowing the city takes pains to see that everyone observes such a standard of conduct, some aggressive types will tone the action down on their own.

(2)Different treatment accorded to rich and poor. It's true that there is and has always been great inequity amongst people in this country, but where should ideas and means to correct that inequity come from? It would seem that those things should come from the people who reside in this country. Why leave the problem entirely up to guys like potter and his staff to solve? City government has already come up with the 10 year plan to end homelessness, which, although it has some rough spots, has already got some desperately homeless people off the street. Anybody who doesn't like that idea, or has a workable, better one, should be making an effort to have it heard and put into effect.

Healing or shuffling 15.Oct.2005 08:16

Man on the streets

The south park sweeps are the result of a few well connected persistant people pushing to make it happen. The same with the people being pushed out. A minority of them where causing the problem. The people dealing drugs would get robbed and beat up. The police knowing they where dealing drugs would refuse to take a police report. The dealers started surrounding themselves with violent people for protection. The violent people attracted people drawn to that energy. Other people living in the area sensed the mood and are scared.

What the police are doing is breaking the mood. It will take some small amount of time to build it's strength bake up somewhere else.

If the police had use community policing from the start it would not have built up like this. The homeless sleeping outside in that area were the most vumerable. The police often refuse to take reports from homeless people also. Those with a tendecy toward violence see the homeless as easy victims. they practice their skills on them and evevtually go on to bigger prey.
The police need to recognize that we are all a part of the community if they want violent and drug crimes to drop further. The statistics have been slowly dropping the last five years. If the police continue to discriminate against the homeless the problems will continue. The first thing to remove is the hate in the hearts of the few police officers at the root of the problem. Sweep the bad cops out of downtown and the city has a chance to heal.

"My freedom ends..." 15.Oct.2005 08:39

inyr nose

There is a very old saw, and although I have googled it, and found it quoted many times, I cannot name the justice that first coined it, but it goes; "my freedom ends, where your nose begins." In other words, "sticks and stones can break your bones, names and faces never hurt you." Despite corporate ameriKa's attempts to define your ability to shop and spend in their area by defining aggressive panhandling as something else, it is still a freedom that we possess, much as we possess the freedom to assemble, and to speak out against our corporate masters without the use of cyclone fenced cattle yards that they dub free speech zones. I may not enjoy being verbally "harrassed" by a panhandler, I will defend to the death his right to do so, much as I do not agree with you wandering aimlessly downtown in search of a place to shop and support corporate ameriKa, I will also defend that right.

The Big Lie 15.Oct.2005 09:39


I hate to admit it, but I am one of the fortunates. Born of the "middle" class, whatever that is, white, and at the right time. I have been very fortunate, not because of anything that I, personally did, or for any personal merit whatsoever. Just plain lucky. Not Smith Barney, did not "earn" it.
That said, I live in a rural setting, and occasionally come to the big city. We moved to the country for peace and quiet, and the freedom to live unmolested. Our neighbor, however, moved to the country so that he and his dirt bikes, quads, and guns could make all of the noise that they want, even to the point of whinging a few bullets over our heads. When we called the Sheriff, know what we were told? "That's just the price you pay, for living in the country." Funny, I thought our mortgage and our taxes were the price we paid for that, but that is not my point. How long would this activity be allowed down there in the heard of corporate americKa? What do the merchants in the downtown pay extra to be unmolested? Actually, per dollar intake, they do not pay nearly enough.
Why is it that the downtown merchants get all the attention, and all the tax dollars spent on them? Because they employ lots of people? Think again. The tax dollars spent upon protecting, painting, paving, and making things special for these merchants far exceeds anything that they contribute to the local economy. They are just very good at buying politicians.
So, when anyone, for whatever reason, feels it necessary to verbally abuse us for contributing to that coruption, I find it to be no threat to my freedom. If those same panhandlers were in my neighborhood, bothering my neighbors, it would be a cold day in hell before we could get a curfew enacted to remove them.

Now, THAT's what I call aggressive panhandling 15.Oct.2005 10:50

get outta my face

This morning, while preparing a couple of posters to take to the Fouad Kaady stand in in Sandy, A lincoln Town Car full of freshly washed Jehovah's Witlesses arrived in my driveway. THAT's aggressive, a nuisance, and a bother. I still defend their right to be there, even if they entered upon MY space, MY property, and MY time. May the Godess bless them.

The reason for this campaign 15.Oct.2005 15:31


...is the opening of the remodeled Portland Art Museum.

Heaven forfend the wealthy arts patrons (many of whom are also big political donors) be disturbed by the sight and sound of homeless people in the South Park Blocks! Why, it might make them feel guilty that they're rich. We don't want to do that, do we?

I've lived in Portland for 9 years, and I've only once had a panhandler be an asshole, and even then, it wasn't "aggressive," as in getting in my face or threatening violence. I guess asking a rich person for a dollar is aggressive - how DARE they!

If you really want to crack down on aggressive panhandling, disband the Portland Business Alliance. Their purpose is to make sure the laws don't apply to downtown Portland businesses, and to lobby for tax breaks and other corporate welfare for their members.

the situation and what we may hope the public expects 16.Oct.2005 00:34


Man on the streets: the following excerpts from your comment:

Healing or shuffling 15.Oct.2005 08:16

simply and exactly described the situation in the SoPkBlks that led to the potter initiative. There was some really bad relationship chemistry happening amongst those people. I talk to people down there who are very angry because since the crackdown, there's virtually none of that crowd there, so they think potter and the cops are putting a wholesale clearout into effect. I think what's really happened is that when the cops chased out the dealers and their personal thugs, all the little hanger-ons voluntarily followed along.

Strangely though, without that crowd there, the park is kind of vacant, a kind of vacuum, and that's a problem in itself. The community would do well to come up with ideas to create a more active, community representative, positive presence in the park.

(Man on the streets)The south park sweeps are the result of a few well connected persistant people pushing to make it happen. The same with the people being pushed out. A minority of them where causing the problem. The people dealing drugs would get robbed and beat up. The police knowing they where dealing drugs would refuse to take a police report. The dealers started surrounding themselves with violent people for protection. The violent people attracted people drawn to that energy. Other people living in the area sensed the mood and are scared.

If the police had use community policing from the start it would not have built up like this. The homeless sleeping outside in that area were the most vumerable. The police often refuse to take reports from homeless people also. Those with a tendecy toward violence see the homeless as easy victims. they practice their skills on them and evevtually go on to bigger prey.(end)

For some more ideas about homelessness, the business community's reaction to it, how to address the issue of homelessness, check out the following article posted relatively recently on indy. Not too many comments, so wondered if people are clicking on and reading it. It's good.

"An example of why the PBA, Tom, and his big dogs got it wrong on homelessness"
author: hmmm


From the horses mouth 30.Oct.2005 21:59

car camper rovingacademic@gmail.com

I'm a car camper here in Portland. I lost my job after back surgery, and haven't been able to recover since. I asked the administration for help (food stamps, help to find a place to sleep and shower, or some hot food) and I was given a list of organizations that pass out food baskets, if you meet certain requirements, that include living within their community. As I live in a bus (with no stove or means of refrigeration) most of these services are lost on me.

I've tried finding unobtrusive places to park, and I've been harassed by security guards and cops.

Some people will think that I'm whining about my situation, and that's fine; but honestly folks. The more the problem is ignored, the worse it will get. Watch in the coming moths and weeks, as the lines of homeless people seeking shelters will grow, the number of people on park benches will swell out of proportion, and it will no longer (as if it is now) be just a matter of drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes, or mentally unstable. One day it could be you sitting on the side of the street, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. One injury, one bad check, one accident that you didn't see coming.

So before you propose some means of social engineering, consider whether you'd like to be on the other side of that not so great divide.

Not so true!!! 25.Dec.2005 00:24


my daughter and 5-yr-old grandson are very low income, they must use downtown for bus transfers. sometimes other uses. but scarey nasty deranged agressive people come up and get in their face, for no reason. so she waited to see if there was any protection forthcoming from potter----lo and behold, the beat walking cops showed up and cleared up some of that. she had had to fight one guy off, with her little boy right there, somewhere around psu.
now, the homeless are being given housing, at least more so. I'm glad to see it. bad idea to downtalk a guy like Potter when he's really there to create the kind of balance we need. Just, so many people are so shellshocked after the KATZ regime, like the above article's author, I guess they lost faith in all leaders. Potter's a decent dude, a righteous Big Chief of this tribe, in my eyes.

Hello from San Francisco 11.Jun.2006 12:00

Not tyring to be a Newsom

Well , in San Francisco , care not cash , need I say more .