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Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

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Portland, Oregon
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Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

Has downtown Portland become a haven for bums / transients / panhandlers and crack addicts? Maybe it's just me but I can't ever recall there being this many out on the street. I run a lap of the bridges a couple of times a week. The old harmless alcoholic is not so common, there seem to be groups of unemployed youth with their dogs living on the street. Their tactics can get downright aggressive and seeing the drug exchanges on a daily basis in broad daylight is really starting to bug me (along with urine and feces in public parking lots)

I'm a pretty calloused city person and have lived in some very large cities, Portland (for its size) has a big problem that it's really ignoring. I avoid being downtown on weekends and end up dining elsewhere (NW, Pearl, etc.) I can be pretty intimidating and would not think twice about walking alone downtown but avoid it when I'm with a GF.

I can't even recommend downtown hotels to clients and friends without thinking about location and warning them about being out and about in certain areas. I've heard from my out of town visitors that we're a Shangri-La for bums. They live in SF and NY, go figure.

Anybody else who lives/works downtown having the same issues?

Buenos Aires...
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1. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

Being so new to Portland, we are still adjusting to the presence of so many homeless and those who really need to be in mental health facilities.

We lived in NYC and it was with great relief that we saw Mayor Guiliani come in and take care of the squeegy men etc..there were a few fatal attacks by homeless people upon innocents going about their business.

We feel sometimes that we have gone back in time in this aspect.

But I hesitate to critisize , having not lived here very long.

I do hope things change though..the police have to be more present, those in charge need to consider the citizens and their rights to feeling safe in their streets at all hours of the day.

This is a lovely city and the people are kind and friendly, but there is a point that one gets to when you have to ask, why is someone not doing something about this?

Portland, Oregon
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2. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

I live in downtown Portland and could not agree with you more. It's come to the point where rather than trip over drunks or be accosted by beggars I do most of my shopping on-line. It breaks my heart. I love this city. I moved downtown to be part of it. Then I realized that city government does not have the courage to make it safe for the people who pay their salaries through taxes.

Oregon
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3. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

Two years ago we took our 13 year old granddaughter to new York City. spent 9 days there.

I resisted going for many years because bad experience 20 plus years ago on short layover. Rude people, bums, etc

But after Paris, London, Rome etc figured I could try NYC. It was great. we were just south of Empire State Bldg.

We are not night people, but I went out at 10 PM a couple of times and felt at ease. many safe looking people on streets.

And really felt at ease in daytime, in subways and on streets.

we live in suburbs, I avoid downtown portland in evenings. my wife enjoys going to plays and we do, but I always hurry us back to car after play is over. About only people on streets are from play.

when i was young. in 50s always felt at ease even late in evening in downtown portland. many good people on streets.

I worked in downtown PDX for 17 years. and got tired of being approached for loose change.

Beaverton, OR
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4. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

We only go downtown when we absolutely have to anymore (we try to be out of downtown before dusk) and I refuse to go by myself. We came back from the airport around 10 pm one night last year and every doorway was full of sleeping homeless people. We take the MAX and don't feel safe on that in certain areas/times anymore (not just downtown either). We were stopped at the Skidmore Fountain stop after the Saturday Market had closed for the season and saw 7 drug deals in the minute or so the train was stopped and there were 2 officers standing not even 10 feet away. How scary was it seeing that one of the homeless men snatched a baby out of a stroller when the parents came off the MAX and tried to run away?

Portland, OR
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5. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

These problems exist everywhere and it's something we're going to have to get used to because the problem is going to get worse, not better.

The state of Oregon has lost a good chunk of its federal funding for services like mental health & disability (and we're going to lose more soon). In addition to those cuts, our economy has been dismal; Oregon was one of the first to be hit with the decline and we are among the very last to recover. The majority of new jobs in the area are low-income jobs earning minimum wage like waitstaff & retail staff so those who do have jobs are not paying a lot in taxes. Budget cuts in funding at the State level are passed down to the county (the County deals with these social services NOT the City).

Multnomah County is currently facing budget cuts of $20-30 million and although the bleeding was stopped temporarily by the i-Tax, there is no solution going forward. Currently a very large percentage of those in our jail system are mentally ill (at a higher cost to society both financially as well as morally, etc). There simply is no other place to put them and so they frequently end up in jail. Even if that were a perfect solution (and it's not), we don't have the funding to maintain what we're doing or house more so they end up on the streets.

Multnomah County has also cut funding for drug treatment programs due to budget issues. What does that mean? Well, a good number of those in jail are there due to addiction issues. Those that leave jail without treatment are 7 times (I think that's the number) more likely to re-offend than those who go through treatment. We can't afford to treat them so they are going through a revolving door -- taking up space that should go to violent criminals and costing us money in the long run.

Given the very anti-tax attitude currently, I don't see an easy solution. The funds need to come from somewhere but no one is willing to pay; that means we go without things like programs for the mentally ill, jail space, treatment programs, etc.

Portland
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6. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

SparkleFufu made so good points. Lack of funding is to blame for just about everything, and it just keeps getting worse. There is an obvious mental health crisis among the homeless here that I have not seen anywhere else in the world. It's tragic...and embarrassing.

Buenos Aires...
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7. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

These problems might exist everywhere but in a variety of degrees. Portland , unfortunately, does have a real problem that cannot be dismissed with the thought that it is happening everywhere.

For a sobering and sad look at the state of Portland as far as crime, there is a Crime Rate Comparison site where you can compare Portland to any city in the US..Washington DC for example..and see how Portland fares. A sobering lesson.

And I do not think that this is all about funding. There are police here , they should be able to do more than they do, if the administration had some goals.

Why does the Pearl, at least the Brewery Blocks, have its own police (unarmed) ? We rarely see a real police car in the Pearl and I cannot ever remember seeing one in the N. Park Blocks or NW23rd..

A good Police presence, is a deterrent .. better than leaving little slips of paper under peoples windshields warning them to not leave their belongings in the car.

The town came up with a nice salary for those two who were in charge of the Portland Art Museum, it would be nice if they could match that with money spent on cleaning up the town.

Portland, Oregon
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8. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

Um, does anyone here remember the early 90s? Back when the Governor Hotel wasn't anything but a squatter's paradise, you couldn't even walk down Broadway during the lunch hour without feeling sketchy. And the Pearl District? That was just a series of abandoned warehouses filled with burn barrels and hustlers. When I was growing up, we didn't dare think of going north of SW Morrison for fear of the O'Bryant Square people shaking us down for for our Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Nowadays, downtown Portland seems nearly as safe and serene as Boise in comparison to my good old days of 1991.

"Safety," perhaps, is a relative term. As the median income of downtown residents' income climbs (thankfully) higher and higher, the opposite side of the spectrum becomes more and more apparent. In the mean time, we can probably help the problem a little bit by NOT stopping on the Hawthorne Bridge ramp to hold up traffic by giving that stupid guy with the "will work" sign. Trust me, he won't work.

Portland, OR
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9. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

I believe the Pearl district has a privately hired security team. Very different from the police.

If you're looking for police cars in the Pearl, simply look at the Starbuck's located on Lovejoy. You'll find a couple there frequently.

The town did not come up with a nice salary for the Buchanans. Private donors did. No taxes were allocated in that direction, whatsoever.

I do remember the early 90s. It was a lot worse then, especially the Pearl (I remember seeing crack-head prostitutes when I went to the gym). It didn't really bother me then either. After living in Seattle for a short period of time in the 90s, I felt our street folks were a lot more harmless.

Buenos Aires...
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10. Re: Bums in downtown Portland (rant)

Those same prostitutes are still working here, broad daylight, in the childrens playground in the N Park Blocks.

On 12th and Stark a couple of months ago, two "harmless" homeless men fought and one broke a bottle in the others neck..he was found dead a few hours later in a doorway.

The idea that an area in a town would hire private security instead of making use of the cities Police says it all. I guess I should be happy we have the Pearl "police" although they are very nice, they have to radio in if there is something one would need "real" police for..

While the rents are high and the area is growing, I see a lot of Pearl residents moving to the suburbs or just out of the area..bums come into the conversations every time the neighborhoods are discussed, but I guess a lot of it depends on if you actually live here.