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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Peter.
    It is heartening to hear this from a 'typical' middle class upstanding church going white male. So much of the time, the people telling this story are already 'suspect' due to not having easy access to showers, rest or shelter. I appreciate you greatly for witnessing all this. It is hard work and I imagine you have lost a few friends to this truth telling. I've seen the cost paid by other folks who step out.
    Blessings and prayers for your self and your family as you do this work.