Another - Portland Occupation
NEW HOMELESS CAMP - R2D2
Today, Saturday, the 8th of October, a new organization is taking physical form. The Right to Dream Too (R2D2) movement is a houseless camp being set up in the heart of downtown Portland next to the China Town's entrance.
The first task is constructing barrier walls around property that has been donated by two Portland landowners to this group. According to the group's spokesperson, Ibrahim Mubarak, "Right now we're on Fourth and NW Burnside, downtown Portland. We have acquired some land from some gracious landowners and we are building a fence so that people who normally would not get a good night's rest, or midday's rest, can come here and rest. And when I say people, I mean houseless people. The fence will keep people safe while they sleep."
Going on to explain the meaning behind the name of this new group, Ibrahim states, "This is called 'Right to Dream Too' because you know about the American Dream, when they tell you that you have to go to college, get married, have 2.5 children, buy a house with a wife, picket fence, and a dog. That's somebody else's dream. They're not allowing other people to dream, meaning that if you're not sleeping, you're not dreaming. So we're allowing people to rest so that they can dream, so we're calling this R2D2, Right to Dream Too, so that everybody will have a right to dream."
OFFICIAL CAMP OPENING ON NATIONAL HOMELESS DAY
The site will be officially opened on Monday, October 10th, which is National Homeless Day. The organizers are extending an open invitation to the community to come down and celebrate National Homeless Day at their new camp. "We want everybody to be in solidarity with us and to see this amazing event. This is history. This is the first time ever. This is different than Dignity Village because we're right in downtown Portland on prime property to let everybody know that there is a houseless epidemic."
"How many people are we going to let in? We don't know, but we know that there are too many people to fit in here. Hopefully, other people with private land that have nothing to do with this will follow this concept and be generous and let people sleep on their land to get people out of the streets -- to let the city know, look at all these people, why are you not doing anything with vacant buildings or old houses or vacant lots that are not being utilized so that they can let people come and rest? And then once you've rested, you can figure out what you want to do. Because when you're sleep-deprived, you cannot figure anything out."
Today and tomorrow, walls and infrastructure are being built. "Hopefully, we won't be building on Monday, but we're going to keep on going until it's built. On Monday, we want to have this open. So, if there is anyone who has any handyman skills, any person who has experience, come down and help us."
BASIC NEED TO SLEEP IS DECLARED
What they will be able to offer is a very small space to enable people to have "their own spot where they can be comfortable and happy. If you're in your own environment, you can lay back and say, 'I need to do this, I need to do that, this is what I can do, this is what I can't do.'"
Explaining in more detail the kinds of difficulties a houseless person endures, Ibrahim explains that, "If you're looking for a place to sleep for eight to twelve hours -- not only a place to sleep, but in Portland, a dry place; and not only that, but a dry, safe place -- because you have a situation where there are people going around beating up homeless people, raping homeless women, police taking their stuff and moving them around and mistreating them and imposing unjust laws on them because they're having a difficult time in life. If they have their own place and their own environment, they can think and become a better person... . What do you expect when you have of a person who hasn't had any sleep walking around like that? People having no sleep, looking at that person, 'oh, he must be on drugs, something is wrong!' What do you expect? Because when you're sleep deprived, you cannot figure anything out"
HOUSELESSNESS IN PORTLAND
Ibrahim believes that city officials have not recognized that houselessness is a serious problem in this city. "They don't realize that there is a problem out there ... they have a problem with the economic system, causing people to lose their houses due to foreclosure, or causing people not to get jobs. causing people to have to survive the best way that they can, in the streets."
Apparently current social services have limited resources and therefore limit who they assist: people with substance additions and the disabled only. "A person like me who is not on drugs, who is not on alcohol, who is not on parole, who is not on probation, who does not have mental difficulties or physical difficulties cannot get inside because they are catering to those people. What happens to people like me who have fallen through the cracks. This is the result of the government failing to admit that they have problem, the government turning its back on people who fell through those cracks and are trying to get out. So, if I want to get help, I have to go and intoxicate myself, or put myself on drugs or hurt myself so that I have a physical disability, or rob a bank to get medical attention."
HISTORY OF THE SITE
Apparently, this particular piece of land has been rendered useless in conventional terms, although the fact that they have been pushed into a corner has led to a very generous humanitarian gesture on their part of the owners.
For some time, this piece of land had a building on it which housed a pornography shop which has recently been torn down. Since then, the open land was rented to a couple of food carts and then shut down again. According to Ibrahim, "The city told the landowners that they couldn't have food carts there because in downtown Portland you're not allowed to have food carts on gravel. And then they wanted to pave the site, but they couldn't pave the site because someone made the claim that Chinese artifacts are buried there. So, it's supposed to be some kind of artifact site or burial ground. It used to be a porn store, so I wonder what they really found."
PLEA TO ALL LANDOWNERS
After being asked what else needs to be communicated to the general public, Ibrahim responded with a plea: "I wish that other landowners who have vacant land and don't know what to do with it right at this moment would donate that land to houseless people like the owner's of this land did. Dan Cossett and Michael Wright have done this out of the goodness of their hearts. I wish others would follow suit and do this. Maybe you would see more people get off the streets, and maybe you would see more people become productive. And maybe you'd see more people come together to build things because we are smart, we're not dumb. We are smart, we have an education."
After being asked what kinds of contributions might help, Ibrahim responded, "Tents, sleeping bags, pallets, and porta-potties. The main thing, as usual, that you need when you're in the street, you need tents and sleeping bags. I don't know how this surface will work with water, but I know with pallets, what we did at Dignity Village is, we were in the grass and the tents were getting soaked, so we had pallets to keep the rain from going into the tents. We also need someone to donate porta-potties."
The R2D2 group is well aware of the Occupy Movements around the country including Occupy Portland. "We are in solidarity with them. We want to wish them well, and it just so happened that our events are overlapping with each other. When I leave here, I'm going to go and be in solidarity with their effort. I wish them well, and I hope that they can get their message out, and that the city officials need to buckle down and tell the rich, "Hey, pay your taxes too!" R2D2 considers their action to be a part of the Occupy Portland Movement. "I think there should be more occupy events going on."
Ibrahim has been involved with the homeless movement in Portland, Oregon since 2000. "I started off with the Homeless Liberation Front, then we veered into Camp Dignity, then we turned into Dignity Village, now I'm with 'Right 2 Survive', which is a homeless advocacy group made up of houseless people, former houseless and supporters. And now, I'm with Right to Dream Too."
R2D2 is currently completing its press release. The release and more information about this action can be found at the Right 2 Survive PDX website: http://right2survive.wordpress.com/.
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