Friday, March 20, 2015

Imagine the Sheriff...

by Peter F.
     Imagine the Sheriff showed up at your door one morning,accompanied by a Portland police officer.  The officer proceeds to force open your door, without knocking, exclaiming "Police, time to
wake up!"  The officer immediately enters your home, putting on blue rubber gloves, as if you and your home were diseased.   No reason is given for their intrusion, and warrant is presented.

     The sheriff, one hand on his gun, waves his inmate work crew into your home, where they look around eagerly, waiting to be told what to do.  The officer walks through your home, pointing at each of your belongings, and the inmates eagerly grab them over your protests.  They take each item to a trailer, where they are tossed onto a pile to be thrown out. You watch in horror as your clothing, bedding, stove, pots and pans, family photos, passport and furniture are taken away.  The officer answers your increasingly desperate protests with a threat to arrest you for interfering with a police officer if you continue to object.

     You are told you don't need what has been taken, or that you cannot legally possess it. When you beg them not to return the next day, the officer tells you that if you leave and never return, the harassment will end.  But you know better.  Others wait in the neighboring communities, ready to do the same.  The uniformed officers leave as abruptly as they came, moving to your neighbor's house, and on down your block.  You know that as bad as this was, the next visit could be the one where your home could be torn down, and your remaining possessions taken from you.  If you are lucky, you will have 24 hours to save what you can carry.

This is not an imagined scenario.  

     It is happening every day on our streets.  It is the holocaust of the houseless.For the houseless, this unbelievable, illegal violation of both the law and their individual constitutional rights is an everyday occurrence. Laws against crimes like theft, and constitutional protections such as the fourth amendment right to be secure in your belongings and papers, or the 5th and 14th amendment guarantees of due process, do not seem to apply.  Conspiracy is not a paranoid delusion for these individuals, but brutal reality.

     The County Sheriff, local police and private security, backed by the money and influence of the PBA and other representatives of business interests, work together in a conscious effort to deprive the houseless of their safety, security, belongings, and protection from the elements.  Meanwhile, the City makes a public show of demonstrating its concern by convening commissions, committees and workgroups to end homelessness, while those sworn to protect and serve all citizens work daily to end homelessness by chasing the homeless out of Portland.

     The 10-year plan to end homelessness died a slow death, and it's heir, A Home for Everyone, in a bizarre incarnation of social triage, has already made the concession that there will be no homes for the single largest group of homeless individuals:  single men.  As if to sweep this truth away, the effort to clear the houseless from under every bridge, out of every doorway, off every sidewalk in the City is in full swing.  ODOT, the Portland Police, Multnomah County Sherriff, Portland Patrol Inc. and Pacific Patrol Services work together in this misguided mission.  Forced to move away from services that are centered on Old Town, the houseless are entering surrounding neighborhoods in large numbers, bringing fear and backlash against them from residents and businesses.

 Homeless in America

by Mike S.
     Imagine if you will, a world where it is illegal to sit down.  Could you survive if there were no place to fall asleep, to store your belongings, or to sit or stand still?  For homeless people across America, these circumstances are an ordinary part of daily life.  In America people are criminalized on a daily basis for just trying to survive.  Sitting, standing, sleeping, and eating in public in many cities in the US are illegal.

  Norwegian Art depicts what they must think of the US.
     According to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, homeless people are criminally punished for being in public, even when they have no alternatives.  Homelessness is caused by a severe shortage of affordable housing, and fewer emergency shelter beds than homeless people.  Despite a lack of affordable housing and shelter space, many cities have chosen to criminally punish people living on the street for doing what any human being must do to survive.  In Portland for example, there used to be a "sit/lie" ordinance, that made it illegal for people to sit or lie on a sidewalk.  There is still a law that makes it illegal to cover yourself if you are lying in a park, or public space.  Other laws affecting homelessness include: camping in public, sleeping in public, laws against panhandling, sleeping in vehicles, and food sharing. These laws are against the very constitution that everyone has, and against peoples basic human rights as afforded by the UN.

     In 3 states, a Homeless Bill of Rights has been passed.  These states are Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Illinois.  Rhode Island was the first state in the nation to pass a homeless bill of rights, ensuring that no one is discriminated against based on their housing status. For the first time, basic rights; such as the right to vote, to access gainful employment, or gain housing; can't be denied because someone lists a shelter or a street corner as their address.

    Oregon is trying to pass a very similar law that will allow people to shelter themselves, cover themselves, and sleep in a vehicle that is legally parked.  Our bill is Senate Bill 629, and is backed by Senator Chip Shields.  If you are interested in learning more about, or want to support us, please feel free to attend our meeting that are held every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Friday of the month at 11:30 am.  The address is 2249 E Burnside in Portland.

    One conclusion that could be raised is criminalization laws are ineffective, expensive, and violate the civil rights of homeless people.  Both the federal government and the international human rights monitors have recognized criminalization of homeless as a violation of the US human rights obligations.  One example of the expense, criminalization.  The Utah Housing and Community Development Commission found that the annual cost of emergency room visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670.  While providing an apartment and a social worker cost only $11,000.  By providing housing to its homeless population, Utah has been able to reduce its rate of chronic homelessness by 74%.

     Some solutions to this problem could be:
 1.  Governments investing in more affordable housing.
2.  Local governments dedicating resources to ending homelessness in their cities.
3.  Communities should adapt a housing first model, which is premised on the idea that pairing
     homeless people with immediate access to their own apartments is the best way to end their
4.  Communities should improve police training and practices.
5.  Every state should enact Homeless Bill of Rights legislation.
These are just a few of the ideas that could help become a solution to the problem of homelessness.  There are probably as many solutions to the problem as there are homeless, but another temporary solution is more rest areas like Right 2 Dream Too.  To get involved with R2DToo, come by our rest area at 4th and Burnside.  All help is appreciated, and all donations are gladly accepted.  You should also go to city council and speak out for your rights, homeless or not.  If enough voices are heard on this issue, it will eventually make a difference.  If not for yourself, then possibly someone you love.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dreamer Spotlight

Willow Frost is a Dreamer.  She stayed at Right 2 Dream Too from February of 2012, until July 2014, when she secured housing.  
Willow loves tea!  So yesterday, we met up at R2DToo and went out to have a tea, chat about her life, and talk about how we could let people know what an important resource we have in Right 2 Dream Too.


Willow was helping Mike cover the security desk for a sick community member when I came to meet her yesterday.

What do you love?
I love tea!  Ever since I was a teenager I have loved tea.  I began drinking it because I couldn’t drink coffee anymore.  Tea comes in so many varieties, even something like mint tea (the chosen tea for our chat) - the process of making it, makes it different every time.  Tea is cheaper than coffee and you can get more enjoyment from it.  It can calm you down, help with digestion, even prevent cancer.  I love tea because their are so many uses, and tea is so diverse.

I also love reading.  I enjoy fantasy novels, historical fiction, poetry, sci-fi… mostly the fiction genre.  Again, it’s all about diversity.  If it’s well written, I’ll read it.  Of course, whether something is well written or not is in the eye of the beholder.

Tell me about your education.
My education is spotty and full.  I got expelled from a bunch of schools.  I wasn’t big on the school structure.  I didn’t understand the rules and I couldn’t conform to them.  I made it through high school.  
At the first high school, I started taking German language.  Then there was a multilingual gathering, with all the different language departments.  That’s where I met the Japanese teacher.  I found out that Japanese is a very structured language.  There are rules, and if you break the rules in Japanese, then you are just talking nonsense.  
I studied Japanese throughout high school.  I got good enough at it that I was elected for the extended exchange trip.  I spent 6 months in Japan where I learned so much and had an amazing host family.  I would go back to visit if I could.
I tried college.  The first time, I lasted 2 weeks.  I tried a different college and lasted 1 week.  I decided to get an education through living.  I did that by talking to people who were intellectuals or had something they could help me learn, and by traveling the U.S.
I got an Associate’s degree from PCC and continued my education at PSU in psychology and Japanese.  But a lot of my learning came from the people I met.
You can learn a lot from homeless people.  Homeless people come from all walks of life.  I learned a lot about philosophy from a homeless guy.  He had a Master’s degree and the field he was working in sort of dried up.  He had been on the streets for four years.
I learned a lot about resourcefulness from a guy named Tank in New York City.  His house was the maintenance room of a subway station.  He broke the lock and rigged the electricity.  He had two five gallon pickle tubs, which he used for his shower.  The room was the size of a small studio apartment.  He had a cot for guests.  I stayed there for 3 weeks.  I learned about electronics and I learned how to pick a lock.
I learned a lot about debate from the Occupiers in New York.  I can hold my own in an argument.  I also learned how to talk to the police (or not talk to the police), both from Occupy New York and Right 2 Dream Too.  They employ different methods, but they both taught me.

Why should people support Right 2 Dream Too?

R2DToo actually saved my life, I think.  The February that I came, I had just got back from Michigan, where I was staying in a mission.  There was no where to stay, I couldn't get services, no shelter.  I had been up for 4 ¾ days because I couldn’t sleep on the sidewalk.  It scared me too much.  My friend Jessica told me about Right 2 Dream Too.  I slept for 16 hours the first night.  If I had been up another night, I may have passed out in the road and been hit by a car.

Right 2 Dream Too is doing a service that no one else in the community is doing.  A lot of organizations say that they are using money to help the homeless, but they are not, because a lot of organizations are using the money they get to pay their employees.  R2DToo is all volunteer run.  The volunteers are homeless members, formerly homeless people, and supporters.  That’s why we don’t need as much money as other organizations.  Also, the people who are working understand the people who use the services.

Right 2 Dream Too needs the help!  I volunteer at Right 2 Dream Too because I am needed.  We need money, because our operating expenses - laundering the sleeping bags, port-o-potties, garbage service and basic supplies - are all covered by donations.  We also need volunteers.  I figure if I can help a bit during check in, or relieve someone from security duty who is sick, then they will have a chance to get better and have the time to better their lives.

I go to the Sunday community meetings, to stay in the loop.  I also support Right 2 Dream Too by going around town, talking with homeless people, friends and people I don’t know too.
I tell them Right 2 Dream Too is a safe place.  It is a place to get in out of the rain.  

Willow sings at R2DToo’s Kaustic Karaoke fundraiser in June

Thank you Willow - for spreading the word about Right 2 Dream Too and for continuing to volunteer with us!  
Donate to Right 2 Dream Too by clicking the Donate button on the right side of the screen -or- send a check or money order to our office address: 4635 NE Garfield Ave. Portland, OR 97211. You can also stop by the rest area have the security folks drop your donation into our safe. We have buttons, bracelets and t-shirts for sale too.
We appreciate it! -Trillium Shannon, co-founder and R2DToo board member

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Right 2 Dream Too Needs You!

Dear friends,

What a year it has been for Right 2 Dream Too!  As most of you know, we are still on the corner of 4th and West Burnside, and expect to be there until we find a permanent site for R2DToo. We started 2014 with a huge push to be included as equals at the negotiating table with city officials who were brokering deals that directly impacted us. The Dreamers, board members, and community supporters testified week after week in front of council.  As a result, the process became more participatory. Although we do not have any viable sites for our new permanent home yet, we are making great strides to change policies and practices that criminalize the houseless and punish people without economic resources.

Dreamers storm the Mayor’s office in January, demanding a seat at the table.

R2DToo provides safe sleep for approximately 100 people in a 24 hour period.  We also provide food, clothing, referrals, and advocacy, as much as we are able. It is with your generous donations that we are able to keep this self managed resource available to our community.

We hope you will consider clicking on the Donate Now on the right side of the screen, and giving a one-time or monthly recurring payment through our paypal account.  Tax deductible donations can also be received at our registered office: 4635 NE Garfield Ave. Portland, 97211.

Some of the highlights of 2014 are:

We helped to organize the 4th Annual Pitch-A-Tent in partnership with Right 2 Survive. This event highlights the fact that it is okay in the City of Portland for housed people to camp overnight along a parade route to hold their spot for a parade, but that is illegal for the houseless community to do so any other time in order to survive.  We provided 24 hour shelter for more people than in previous years, and the entertainment was off the hook!

Bajo Salario inspires the crowd at the 4th annual Pitch A Tent protest and celebration.

This year, R2DToo celebrated three years at our current site. This was a momentous occasion, as many people thought we wouldn’t make it a month, or even one week.  We were so happy to celebrate with people who use the rest area to sleep safely, and our dynamite volunteers.

Celebrating 3 years of safe sleep at Right 2 Dream Too, October 10th.

In June, Tucson Safe Park Dream Center founding member Jon McLane visited Right 2 Dream Too.  Then in October, we sent two of our board members to Tucson, AZ to support their rest area, called Tucson Safe Park Dream Center.  They are facing similar challenges to what we experienced here in Portland in the beginning. We are proud to stand in solidarity with and help educate other houseless people throughout the US and the world so that they can build community and provide safe sleep.

Mural at Tucson’s Safe Park Dream Center, our allies in the Southwest.

Our Under the Bridge Walks (UTBW) have been ramped up, thanks to generous donations of blankets, warm clothes, and hygiene supplies that have been coming in to the rest area in the past month. UTBW happens almost every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. UTBW were started by Right 2 Survive.  Right 2 Dream Too is the meeting place and from there we set out to network with houseless community under bridges and in the doorways, to make sure they have the basic necessities for survival and comfort.  We distribute blankets, warm clothes, toiletries, food, socks and more.

If we can get 100 people to donate just $15 a month, that will support Right 2 Dream Too’s monthly costs of $1500!  That amount includes, water, electricity, port-a-potties, recycling, compost, and garbage. R2DToo is solely supported by donations from the public, and grants.  We do not take a dime from the city or any other government agency to run daily operations.

Community support is what we need to be a sustainable model.  Please help us reach that goal. We also invite anyone interested to come visit the rest area, see how it is operated and talk with the houseless folks to hear their stories and share your own.

R2DToo is in solidarity with many organizations including, but not limited to:

Right 2 Survive, Sisters of the Road Cafe, Portland Jobs with Justice, Portland Harbor Community Coalition, Groundwork Portland, KBOO, Food Not Bombs, The Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP),15 Now PDX, Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE).

Thank you in advance for your generous donation!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

                       Mental Health care Irresponsibility
by Thomas
For the homeless people of the state of Oregon and Washington as of 1987, due to it would have it would have been in place by the time that all the mentally ill was released.Due to the fact that it was ruled that it was illegal to hold them.  We would have been able to handle our own, and show the other states like Washington how to handle their neighborhoods, how to deal with the problem of homelessness and the mentally ill homeless, in our communities.  The federal government has been allocating monies to deal with the houseless, but it is not reaching those in need, or getting to the people that know how to set up the proper organizations. There is also a large community of homeless veterans that are left out here because of lack of services also that fell through the cracks, they are just now learning how to get out of this due to Undivided House. The rest of us are still falling through the cracks. The melting pot is getting bigger and bigger, since other states are using Oregon as a dumping ground for the mentally ill. We should be calling our politicians and letting them know that we are here, and we need help.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pitch-A-Tent is here again !!

Photo by Portland IndyMedia

4th Annual Pitch A Tent

Sweepless Nights Know Your Rights

Friday, June 6th, 10am to Saturday June 7th, noon
SW 4th & Washington

Pitch a tent is a public camp out designed to raise awareness about the criminalization of homelessness in Portland and across the nation and the creative solutions that can be implemented immediately to address this human rights crisis.

"The city allows people to pitch up tents for pleasure, but they won't allow people to pitch a tent to survive. This is wrong." said Leo Rhodes. "Homeless people are just doing human things like sleeping, getting out of the rain and resting."

Come Join them on June 6th to pitch a tent along the Rose Parade route. Every year the city of Portland buys a permit that allows them to camp along the parade route once a year. The other 364 days of the year the community will be criminalized and harassed for putting up tents. This shows that camping for recreational activities is okay but Camping for survival is not.

They set up starting at 4th and Washington at 10 AM then move outwards. They will be setting up all morning into the evening. They will have events, entertainment and food throughout the day.

Join in on our Facebook event page for updates - we need your help!! - link

Notes From the Desk of R2DToo

Notes from the desk:  Three more people found work and 4 more people are mere weeks from being housed, which brings out total up to 101 housed and 99 people with jobs.  We welcomed some new members who we are happy to have and excited to start training them up as activists so they can speak out for themselves and others experiencing injustices in the houseless community!  

We also received many donations and are extremely grateful to those who have chosen to give not only material donations, but their time and effort to help us help people sleep safely.  Welcome to our new friends and you all rock! 

Thank you!
The Dreamers