Report From Portland

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By John Hubbuch

Marsha and I have just returned from Molly Ziegler's lovely wedding in Portland, Oregon. We had never been to the Rose City so we stayed over a couple of extra days and toured. Portland is a great city to walk. We walked  the neighbor hoods and ate at a few of the great restaurants, went out to Washington Park and took a day trip to the Columbia River Gorge.                   

I give Portland a B+. It would have gotten an A except for the mutitudes of homeless people. I don't know much about homelessness, but the issue must present some serious policy conflicts. On the one hand it is clear that the City of Portland, and for that matter Oregon,  is a very laid back ,humane place. Homeless people have a right to life, and that includes space. Non-conformity is a part of Portland's DNA. It is one of the reasons Portland is a cool place to live and visit.             

On the other hand the large number of homeless certainly diminish the aesthetic of the place. Having large numbers of people sleeping in doorways and asking for money is not good for the tourist trade. Now for the most part,  it's not a really big deal although I did hear one guy mumbling about needing to take his meds,  or he was going to punch someone in the face. I turned the corner. In talking to the natives I got the impression that there was a predictable division of opinion about what to do with the homeless in Portland. There are many facets of the problem and no easy solutions. In some ways the presence of so many homeless forces the tourist to confront issues much more important than what bar has the best Happy Hour. And that may be a good thing.

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 1:27 PM

Coincidentally, my wife and I were in Portland on vacation at the same time you were. We both found it to be interesting, fun, and friendly city. It's has loads of history and great architecture. It is a great example of a city that has maintained its history without ignoring modernity. Its transit system is the best I have ever seen in the United States. My wife had the same reaction to homelessness that you had. I did not like the amount of homelessness, but was pleased that it was not the aggressive version. I also got the sense that the community had decided to live together with the them, rather than ghetto-izing them. During a walk through Chinatown (no big deal), I came across an old hotel that was being used as a day rate homeless housing. It was about 4PM and there was an organized line of men, women, and children waiting patiently and orderly for a room. I saw that as a significant contrast to most day rate hotels. All in all it was a great stop. If you are there again, rent a car and drive Rt 6 through the state forest - it is breathtaking. Then track the ocean road north to see some of the grand beaches and towns along the way. All in all it was a great stop.

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