The following letter, penned by Noelle Toland, is rightly critical of aggressive vagrants. The increasing prevalence of “homeless” beggar types stymies business and puts pressure on law enforcement to control/prevent it. The standard dilemma is that if you arrest a vagrant, what do you do with them. If you lock them up, that is one less jail cell for a violent criminal.
Noelle points out that tolerance, which is generally a virtuous point of view, is unacceptable in this case because it only increases the incidence of street begging and occasional confrontations between paupers and folks going through their daily routine.
It’s a cool and catchy phrase, right? It calls to what my hometown wants for itself. We welcome the odd, embrace the kooky and praise the outlandish. We’re progressive and compassionate. Maybe too much so in our sufferance of belligerent vagrants.
I grew up in Portland and most of the time I’m proud to call it home. For good or ill, I’m emotionally attached. Since alighting on Los Angeles, a bigger city with brighter lights, I’m far-flung from home. So whenever I return, I’m an observer — an un-jaded, un-faded fan of the place — who sees things objectively(objection: it is impossible for anybody to be completely objective, but thanks for trying).
Since my last few visits to the City of Roses, my Portland pride has diminished a bit. One evening, outside the doors of the Fox Tower 10 movie theater on Park Avenue, a twenty-something beggar sat crosslegged on the sidewalk with a cardboard message, wailing that she’d been hit by one of the two fender-bended cars 10 feet from her, and she needed money and a place to sleep. No ambulance, no EMTs, no scratches. Around the corner from this fiasco a doped-up kid sitting with his Staffordshire terrier asked if I could spare some change so that he could score some cheeva. It seemed like on every corner downtown there were young layabouts sporting the strungout look, high and fly in grunge-bum couture.
Everyone has his own and her own stories, and who are we to judge(We are the ones who are being inconvenienced by lazy pricks unwilling to work!!)? I’ll answer that: We, the taxpayers, are here to judge. Especially if we’ve been verbally assaulted by an envious drifter. If citizens have to cross the street to avoid an unpleasant exchange, something should be done about it. If panhandling, robbery, returning shoplifted goods for cash and selling stolen bicycles are sustainable industries in Portland, then Portland can keep it, and I’ll remain a tourist. Visitors should come to Portland and leave with wonderment and curiosity, not disgust and annoyance.
Something new needs to be done to deal with the dark side of Portland’s human condition. Some insight and action are called for. Old proposals for more shelter beds and more facilities to house the homeless are hackneyed and unimaginative. More government funding for more homelessness.
I propose that what we need is less. Less homelessness, less human suffering, less invidiousness. Less is more. What we need is change.(OMG-surprise surprise, this girl voted for Obama) We should instead invest money into job training programs(no amount of job training will cure inveterate laziness and lack of motivation) that provide the homeless with an income and a sense of purpose. Programs through Worksystems Inc. and New Avenues for Youth are great examples of what could put these people back on their feet.
Albert Einstein(A physic’s genius perception here is unlikely useful even though it is quite inspiring abstractly) said, “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” In other words, smarten up. Keeping Portland beautiful requires creative thinking, and there’s enough brilliance, creativity and energy in its people to fix whatever befalls the city. Let’s keep Portland beautiful. Let’s keep Portland smart. Lets keep Portland weird.