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It might be an arguable point but Portland seems to have one of the biggest homeless populations around, and the reason for this is kind of astounding. Being homeless isn’t a joke, let’s get that straight right away. There are many reasons why people become homeless and it’s not just laziness or lack of willpower when it comes to finding work or something that can help them get back on their feet. Some do in fact suffer from serious mental issues, while others lost their jobs and somehow fell through the cracks so to speak. Others lost everything due to addictions that they either couldn’t or didn’t want to control, and found themselves on the street. And then there are those that simply have no social or family ties to speak of and for one reason or another have no one to rely on when they really need help.

A lot of people still look down on the homeless as though they’re a plague that needs to be endured or wiped out for decent, hardworking individuals to really enjoy the scenery of their city. Taking the MAX throughout Portland usually means having to see sleeping bags, piles of newspaper or cardboard, and other such signs of habitation propped up in doorways or in alleys, wherever a person can find a spot to sit or lie down. It’s far too easy to look down your nose at a homeless individual, especially those that are actively asking for a bit of change. Often times though it’s important to do at least a little research and find out just why the number of homeless folks in this city are seemingly stuck where they are.

They’re not all addicts.

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You don’t have to have a drug or alcohol problem to be homeless. Sometimes it’s a run of bad luck in your life that leads to the worst possible spot, other times it’s the fact that you can’t seem to get anything going for various reasons. Not every person you see on the street is an addict that can’t seem to help themselves. Those that are seem bound to remain in a pit that they dug for themselves from the start and don’t seem willing to get out of. Addiction might be a disease, and many will argue that it is, but the will to get better is what could pull them upward and allow such individuals to get back on their feet in one way or another. There are those that are not hampered by an addiction or a mental illness of some sort that are actively trying to get better and to change their life. The homeless folks you see on the city of Portland are not without hope, but it does take a certain amount of effort to turn their lives around.

Many of the homeless on Portland’s streets came from other areas due to Portland’s tolerant environment.

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Portland is one of the most tolerant cities around when it comes to the homeless. Check for confirmation if you want, but those tent cities and the various individuals you find sacked out under bridges, in doorways, and wherever else they can find to bed down are here because the city is far more inviting and has more to offer the homeless than many other places. For one, the climate is a lot easier to take. It might get cold in the winter but unlike other cities Portland is still tolerable and a person won’t likely freeze to death as they would in other cities across the nation. Plus, no matter how much rain we get, and we get a lot, it’s still less than say, New York City.

People are far more giving in Portland as well, as on average a homeless person can make a decent living by holding up a sign and asking for change. While this isn’t entirely legal there’s nothing the police can do about it even if they wanted to. The homeless in Portland can make a decent amount of money per day thanks to the generosity of the people, and in some cases, not all but some, can make more in an hour than many people make in a day at a regular job. It can happen, but it’s not the norm.

Here’s the downside of that, a lot of them don’t need the money as much as you think.

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Taking a look at these pictures you might think that this is an erroneous statement and that I’m just another one of those folks that would say “Get a job you bum” to those on the street. Honestly some of them are capable if they could find a place willing to pay them under the table, and there are many of those, but the truth is that there are also a great many programs in the city that help the homeless in a variety of ways. Now keep in mind that only so many can be helped and only so many actually want to be helped, but there are still programs that have been set in place to help them with any mental problems, addictions, housing, and to stay fed.

You’re right if you think being homeless is still a horrible thing, as it usually means sleeping on the street and anywhere else you can find while being regarded as a piece of human offal by those that would gladly look down on them. But the truth is that so many in this city strive to look out for these individuals that they don’t wanting for as much as you think. The money they earn might go towards anything, but for many it seems as though it goes towards their vices or something other than what they really need to survive and possibly get back on their feet. Someone has recently told me “Judge not lest you be judged in turn” and they’re right. Judging the homeless for their lifestyle is not the answer. But reserving judgment for those that don’t at least try to improve their life is awfully tempting.

Being homeless is not an epidemic, but at this point the fact that Portland is so increasingly tolerant seems to present an issue as to whether or not the city can handle the influx of those that wish to continue living on the street due to the generosity of others. It’s great and it’s noble to love thy neighbors and want to take care of them, but at some point it seems to become enabling rather than helping. Perhaps with more incentive programs, or improvements to any that exist, the homeless situation could take a serious left turn and begin to present less of an issue for all those involved.

3 Comments

  1. I work at a place that provides homeless shelters for women, children, men and families, but one that has strict rules that ensure responsibility and requires that all tenants must have a job or be actively searching for one. We also provide career training, GRE prep, cooking classes, childcare, classes on saving money, etc. to both people living in the shelter and to the general public, though I think many of these programs are underutilized by the community. It’s a fabulous program for those in it, but unfortunately so many families wanting to make a change must be turned away because our capacity is at max. Thank you for this informative piece, and I look forward to continuing to read your blog posts!!

    1. I think that’s awesome and I believe it that there are just too many people at times. The only real issue I see is that people keep migrating to Portland simply because these programs exist and don’t seem to want to improve their lives once they get here. But I do believe that such programs are great and can help those that are serious about getting back on their feet.

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