Featured Stories

Join the homeless in fight for sleep sites

My View • Right 2 Dream Too wants new law giving homeless a place to camp
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Portland officials say the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp violates Portland's anti-camping ordinances, but have allowed the Occupy Portland campsite on two city parks to remain in place.

We at Right 2 Dream Too appreciate the Tribune article, 'Old Town homeless camp refuses to budge' (Oct. 13), informing readers about our activities at Fourth Avenue and West Burnside Street. However, it contained numerous errors. We thank you for the opportunity to correct them.

We began meeting about six months ago; three months ago we began meeting weekly. In this process we developed a purpose: to provide members a place to have safe, uninterrupted sleep.

We, the formerly shelterless, now housed, found this to be the greatest need to those without shelter. Our members have lived without shelter and they know of the constant daily interruption of sleep by the authorities.

In these six months, we formed a board of directors, created a mission statement, wrote articles of incorporation, wrote bylaws, found a site, set up policy, acquired funds, got insurance and applied for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. We feel that this is quite an accomplishment for the formerly unhoused, but we were devoted, as we all had experienced life on the streets.

We admit to making up all of this process. We acknowledge this project has a life of its own which we guide as a group. It is phenomenal what the resultant creation is: Last night 70 members of Right 2 Dream Too had a safe, uninterrupted night's sleep.

We declare this a small victory. We provide more sleep sites than the Portland Rescue Mission, and at no cost to the city, county, state or federal government.

We have two to three group meetings a week to discuss issues as we vote on rules, consequences, cleanliness, security and visitor access (none on site - it is private property; Right 2 Dream Too members only).

It works - we have built a community of empowered members who have control over their lives, have their opinions respected, have a safe place (to sleep) and lend many hands to any projects.

We have had legal experts examine our direction and organization at every turn, and we feel we are legal. If the authorities say not, we will try to cooperatively solve the issue. On the other hand, this issue exists because the city and county blindly ignore the need for a safe sheltering of the 5,000 to 7,000 humans sleeping outside in Portland. Their action is to harass, intimidate, arrest and pass more laws to make our existence illegal.

Seattle just passed a law allowing camps of up to 100 persons as long as they provide for sanitation, security, fire and health concerns. Their ordinance limits this to church land. We urge the city of Portland and Multnomah County to pass a similar law, but allowing camps on private or public land.

With a need for 5,000 to 7,000 beds, in Portland, we need 50 of these camps at a minimum. It is unfair to dump this burden on churches, as many others should be allowed to support this effort.

We at Right 2 Dream Too have voted unanimously to support this effort and are in solidarity with Occupy Portland. We want this ordinance now, as the unsheltered have nowhere to go and our existence is criminalized by your laws.

The number of humans without shelter is increasing and the city has no solution other than harassment and arrest. One of our members surveyed jail personnel and found 40 homeless people were processed through the jail in one shift.

Criminalization is inhumane, as there is no place else to go.

That is the ultimate question to the unsheltered: Where do we go? The only answer is away or to jail.

We thank the many Portlanders who have donated food, blankets, tarps, tents, money and land to see that 1.5 percent of the unsheltered are legally sheltered and safe.

We can only hope the Portland Tribune and the city can support us in this exciting, worthy community-based effort. We are willing to cooperate in continuum to provide a safe, sanitary and sheltered environment for humans.

Please, city, county, civic and business leaders. Let's cooperate to solve this urgent problem in the most difficult of times. Everyone deserves a place to be warm, dry and secure.

Please join us in the spirit of cooperation, not force - we are doing your job at no taxpayer's expense.

Mike O'Callaghan is secretary and treasurer of Right 2 Dream Too.