Portland’s Homeless Problem

“Stupid Is as Stupid Does” – Forrest Gump

Last week The Oregonian/OregonLive reported:

“Portland businesses will soon pay more to have trash collected and hauled away. The extra $1 million the city will take in annually will be used to clean up debris left on public property by homeless people.

“The City Council on Thursday raised the per-ton fee businesses pay to have their garbage hauled from $9.60 to $12.60. Increased costs take effect July 1.”

For at least the past three decades one Portland Democrat after another has served as Mayor and/or members of the City Council. This is where the “cookie cutter effect” shows the dangers of in-breeding. And these aren’t the old-fashion blue collar Democrats; these are from the far left wing of the party who have never met a trendy cause that they didn’t embrace early and often. It is done blindly, without thought to either the outcome or the cost but with the sure knowledge that someone else will pay – generally those earning over $100,000 per year. And with the additional sureness that if they fail it wasn’t because their solutions were wrong, rather it was because they didn’t spend enough money in pursuit of those solutions. You cannot tell one from the other despite the fact that their ilk encompasses men and women, gay and straight, old and young, purple hair and no hair but never left and right – just left and further left. Arrayed behind an opaque screen they would morph into a single indistinguishable, endless whine – about the ch-h-i-i-l-l-d-d-r-r-e-n-n-n (said with a moan) and a litany of wrongs – real or imagined – described with increasing vehemence and violence.

During this three decade long mismanagement of Portland, these “do-gooders” have embraced the homeless as a symbol of their great hearts and unlimited charity (of course with someone else’s money). Through a combination of welfare availability, shelters, preferential treatment and lax law enforcement, they have encouraged the homeless.

As a result Portland has become a Mecca for the homeless. According to the United States Census Bureau the population of Portland increased from 632,187 to 647,805 between 2015 and 2017. That is an approximate 2.5% increase. During that same period of time the homeless population increased from 3801 to 4177 – an increase of nearly 10%. In point of fact it took Portland from 2011 to 2017 to approximate a 10% increase in general population while the homeless population was increasing from 2727 to 4177 – an increase of 53 percent. Basically, you can take any period of time during the last three decades and you will see that the homeless population in Portland increases at a dramatically faster rate than does the general population.

The result is that Portland has become a mess. It is overrun with the homeless, the professional beggars, street kids, prostitutes, druggies and the psychotics. The downtown on warm days smells like an outhouse. (For those of you forced to endure a teachers union led education in the Portland Public Schools, an outhouse is basically a porta potty without the deodorants.) On any given day you are likely to encounter one or more of this detritus urinating on a wall, defecating in one of the massive flower pots or regurgitating in the gutters. Some say that you haven’t “experienced” Portland until you have encountered one of Portland’s ignobled “first citizens” relieving him/herself.

So long as these people do not block the entrances to City Hall or the Multnomah County executive offices they are free to roam and foul the remainder of the city. Portland’s “living room” – Pioneer Courthouse Square – has become a gathering place for the young and disaffected. A place where drug dealers ply their wares and pimps pedal young boys to aging johns. Old Town, formerly the home of some of the best Asian food anywhere, transforms from an interesting daytime walk to a dangerous lair populated by pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers at night.

The problem has grown so large and so politically charged that anyone seeking to resolve it is instantly labeled a bigot, a homophobe, an elitist or worse yet, a Republican. So the Democrats-in-charge fall back to their usual solution, spend more money. It matters little where it is spent, or whether it provides a real solution, it just matters that the Democrats-in-charge can point to it as if volume substitutes for success.

The Portland City Council in February of 2017 issued nearly $258 Million in bonds to provide affordable housing for the city’s homeless. In May of 2018, the Council increased taxes on businesses by $15 Million to fund new programs to address the plight of the homeless by $31 Million. Even Mayor Ted Wheeler has admitted that the increased bonding and taxes cannot keep up with the growing homeless problem. So, what to do? Well, the only solution coming from the Democrats-in-charge is to throw more money at it.

Because I am not a bigot, a homophobe, an elitist or worse yet a Republican, and even more importantly don’t give a rip about someone accusing me of the same, let me try my hand at a four-point solution.

1. Stop attracting the homeless. Impose work requirements and drug tests for access to welfare for the able-bodied – if real jobs are not available then put them to work cleaning up the city that their fellow transients have littered. Eliminate pubic funding of advocacy groups promoting benefits for the homeless and use that money to promote jobs and training for jobs.
2. Strengthen enforcement of vagrancy policies including prostitution, drug dealing, loitering, defacing property, etc. – the “broken windows” policy introduced in New York City that has worked everywhere it has been tried. In essence get them up and get them moving.
3. Enforce respect for private property rights by punishing those who violate those rights. Allow retail establishments abutting public sidewalks to install drip systems to discourage camping in doorways and under windows. (It rains in Portland eight months of the year, adding a little extra moisture to the sidewalks is not going to create a hazard for anyone.)
4. Limit itinerant camping to those areas surrounding the City Hall and the executive offices of Multnomah County Commission. If these politicians are so enamored of the homeless let them interact with them up front and personal for an extended period of time.

It’s fine to work on the root causes of homelessness – varied as they may be – but given the fact that in thirty years you have yet to come up with a solution to those root causes, maybe its time to pay attention to the victims of the homeless who are paying the freight. And just a reminder the nation has spend over $22 Trillion on the War on Poverty over a period exceeding 50 years with no visible reduction in poverty. It’s time to stop throwing money at solutions that don’t work.