Sunday, May 25, 2014

Street Roots - "Tent City Part Deux?"

Trena Sutton sits outside the Clackamas Service Center, one of the few drop-in, resource centers for people experiencing homelessness in Clackamas County. There, negotiations have started to create a tent city,
 much like Portland’s Right 2 Dream Too, for people who are homeless.
Photo by Adrienne Barnett

Tent city part deux? Homeless individuals in Clackamas County look to Right 2 Dream Too as a model


"On any given evening along the dark, wooded perimeters of the Springwater Corridor in Clackamas County, more than 50 homeless individuals tuck themselves in for the night and hope for the best — or, at least a good night’s rest.

To many, uninterrupted sleep comes as a luxury in an area fraught with late-night camp raids, both from local authorities and predators. It is no surprise that conversations  among those experiencing homelessness have turned to organizing around safety.

“What chance do we have when we can’t feel safe in the only place we call home?” asks Hilary, a woman living with her husband under a nearby bridge. “It’s always one step forward and two steps back.”

The main haven for this community, Southeast 82nd Avenue’s Clackamas Service Center, remains understaffed and out of space for the county’s steadily growing homeless population. With free meals, health services, a free clothing room, and a future promise of public showers and laundry facilities, the service center is working on all cylinders — but staff still admits there’s a large gap in their services.

“We are burning the candle at both ends here,” says CSC volunteer staff member Trena Sutton, who fields safety-related calls and concerns from the center’s visitors on a daily basis. “We need a location where people can be safe. A well-maintained camp would give them the safe, communal living many of these folks need to move forward with their lives.”

Despite her already full plate of responsibilities at the center, Sutton’s paired up with Ibrahim Mubarak, the founder and head of downtown Portland’s Right 2 Dream Too homeless encampment, to bring this idea into a reality. Their ultimate goal: Bring the Clackamas community together to support and create a second Right 2 Dream Too camp.

The original Right 2 Dream Too community — currently in the stages of a much-debated move from its East Burnside grounds — has grown into a respectable and secure rest area since its creation in October 2011. Like R2DToo, Sutton’s proposed second site would have a front desk with 24-hour surveillance and prohibit alcohol, drugs, violence and discrimination. Here, Sutton says, the people wanting to better themselves and dig themselves out of an anxiety-saturated livelihood would be protected from predatory individuals.

“I’ve seen people being victimized over and over again from predators on the trail,” she says. “So many people are spread out and vulnerable, they have no way to truly protect themselves. I need a safe place for my folks.”

Compared to inner Portland, Clackamas County’s facilities and services for its homeless population are few and far between, ramping up the need for a solution. According to Sutton, the area only has three dependable homeless shelters specifically for women and families. One is closing at the end of the month. If you’re single or without children, the closest shelter is more than 6 miles away — or a 45-minute bus ride."   Please continue reading here at Street Roots -

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