Among the homeless in Gresham, there is fear.
The official statement in Gresham is that homelessness does not exist in their town. This is the statement of the mayor and the police. However, there is at least a hundred chronically homeless folks in the city of Gresham, a suburb of Portland, OR. Yet the homeless that are there, for the most part, have been raised in Gresham, and the town in their permanent residence, so to speak.
The police have done what they can to force the homeless to move out of town, to make the official statement to be true. They regularly force people out of their camps, even throwing away their tents and blankets and sleeping bags. They regularly check on people who look homeless, whether they are or not. In the past, they have waited for the homeless outside of churches where the street folks worshipped in order to pick up anyone who happened to have a warrant. This practice was stopped because of the concern of middle class citizens who express their dismay at that practice. The police also attempted to deny some homeless folks access to the library because they were camping on public property. This attempt was thwarted by a Multnomah County judge.
But more than this, some people have been targeted with brutality. Mitch, a gentle, quiet homeless man, was attacked by a police dog and so was walking with a limp for the rest of his life. Another couple was recently beaten senseless by the police. The homeless are regularly threatened. I, myself, was last year threatened with arrest because I was a witness to the verbal abuse they poured upon innocent people.
The problem, as I see it, is not one that can be rectified by judges or by taking each situation as it comes. (more…)