I’m not directing this at you or in response to your recent article on the six proposed outdoor shelters.
As far as I can tell when it comes to consideration of issues related to homelessness whether by policy makers, journalists, or even the general public, that part of the homeless community that I am a part of is seldom heard from, considered, or in the end properly or fairly dealt with in terms of public policy.
There is not an established label for the community segment I am concerned about. However they can be described as long term committed urban campers. They are not likely to ever sleep on a sidewalk or in a doorway. They tend to have a fair amount of belongings that provide shelter, comfort, privacy, and that are used to take care of bodily needs like food storage, preparation, and disposal. Similarly they tend to have practices or systems or even technologies to deal with other solid waste disposal issues, including appropriate ways of doing bodily waste disposal. And since they tend to have a high quantity of belongings and stable consistent methods for meeting the needs of their lifestyle, they tend to be less transient than other homeless people. Indeed some members of this community are less transient than many of the so called ‘housed’ who move frequently from house to apartment, apartment to apartment. and even apartment to shared living space with other housed transients.
This begins to speak to why I don’t much care for either the term homeless or the term houseless. We usually don’t use standard tents either. Our shelters tend to be more substantial. We consider our shelters to be small houses and after living in the same place for a while that house becomes a home.
Unfortunately it is consistently the case that our homes are torn away from us,
the materials and belongings we have used to survive and provide comfort are confiscated from us or destroyed and discarded.
Now as with these six outdoor shelters the whole aim is to provide a justification for brutal sweeps of the homeless The claim is that these or other shelters will make it so that no one need camp on public land or sidewalks or any other space once these
government shelter areas are available.
And for some of those we call homeless these places will be a good thing and will provide better access to a secure rest area, hygiene services, and opportunities to connect with various agencies for jobs or more permanent housing.
But for many of the long term dedicated urban campers, being displaced by sweeps aimed at forcing us into shelters will represent huge decreases in the quality of shelter we have provided for ourselves. And the pride we take in our shelter homes should not be dismissed. Nor is it a minor issue that this whole process will strip us of the dignity and freedom that many of us have fought for for many years.
A part of the reason (indeed it is a big part)
I live outdoors is that as best as possible I want to avoid participation in the types of lifestyle choices that are now risking tremendous human suffering perhaps the collapse of civilization and maybe even a massive extinction event that includes humanity. It really isn’t debatable the homeless clearly have very low carbon footprints. So when it comes to threats to public health, policy makers and their public supporters might look a little closer at their own reflections in a nearby mirror.
For my part I don’t just live outside I also work outside. (I won’t go into detail but I’ll attach examples of the wood work I do as well as some photos of my living space).
Many other urban campers have similar beliefs and practices that are not compatible with the public policy approaches outlined in your recent article.
Bottom-lines - we are not doing anything that is objectionable - we aren’t blocking sidewalks - if anything we help rid Portland of visible garbage - we dispose of waste, including bodily waste in ways that are responsible. We are far less criminal than some segments of the housed community.
Some of us just want to be left alone. Others seek as best as possible to contribute to the community through art or music or politics or with bicycle repair I or by directly helping out their neighbor with food or childcare, or whatever is needed.
But for the urban camper (and many others who are homeless), past as well as current public policy takes none of that into account. Instead policies that diminish us, disrupt our ability to function, and destroy any hope we have in terms of making a contribution are the policies that get adopted.
And so as far as the future goes since we are once again not even considered or taken into account in the public discussion I know we will simply get more of the same.
We are victims.
Sorry I’m sending this without proofreading. It’s kind of long - maybe I should apologize for that as well.
503 482 3188
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