Readers' Letters
by: Christopher Onstott, A man is arrested by Portland transit police after an altercation outside Pioneer Courthouse, a zone heavily trafficked by panhandlers. Letter writers feel the aggressive behavior of some panhandlers damages the quality of life and business in downtown Portland.

As a transplant from New York City and downtown resident, this article is very, very salient for me (Would Rudy Giuliani put up with this?, Sept. 9). Thank you for writing it.

The damage to the quality of life, and the businesses downtown, is incalculable. Retailers and offices locate downtown because of all the great amenities, but the homeless problem just grows and grows daily without being checked or addressed.

Despite money and projects dedicated to ending homelessness, I don't believe our city leaders really have any idea how to do that. Clinics, housing and services are built, but then what? In this economy, college-educated people compete for fast food jobs. Opportunities for even the most honest and earnest ex-homeless person will be scant. Housing them only solves a small part of the problem.

When you want to solve a problem with people, you need to use both a carrot and a stick. We already have the carrot: You can come here, be tolerated, be housed, have ample services and resources. But we have no stick.

We need more police and security downtown. I'm not talking about an army or creating a police state, but a general sense that there are people looking out for you. And Portlanders need to realize that it is not inhumane to support laws that allow for enforcement of aggressive homeless people. That behavior benefits no one - including other homeless people who are trying to eke out an existence by being polite.

It hurts both law-abiding, taxpaying people who want to live and shop downtown and the homeless themselves when loud, aggressive jerks get in your face - you'll start to think all homeless are like that, though they're not.

I would vote for a candidate who draws a line in the sand and addresses this problem. Portland city leaders, I hope you read this: The cost of employing additional security downtown will pay off in more shoppers, more businesses and more residents downtown. Those three groups pay taxes and thus your paychecks - please listen to them once in a while.

Michael Caputo

Southwest Portland

Blaming victims is not the answer

As a nurse who has long worked with the homeless on the streets, I find this article quite disturbing (Is Portland really a 'Mecca for bums'?, Sept. 16).

Yes, there are a number of vagrants who are aggressive panhandlers, but so many of the street folks are physically and/or mentally ill with a paucity of treatment resources available. This week, homeless ill folks I attempted to help included Vietnam veterans, Iraq war veterans, a Princeton-educated Ph.D. chemist who lost his job and work due to mental illness, and many others who lost their jobs and health care. Others have issues with drug and alcohol abuse and would be willing to get help, if there were any available, or housing, if there were any.

Blaming the victims is not the answer; figuring out how to get services - even enough toilets so people don't have to resort to urinating in public - is a start. I suggest the author spend a night on the very dangerous streets and he might realize most of the homeless do not want to be there.

Suzanne Friend R.N.C.

Northwest Portland

Compassion can be dangerous

Apparently the article Ms. Geigle-Teller (guest opinion author, Sept. 23) refers to and the one I read are entirely different.

The op-ed "Is Portland really a 'Mecca for bums'?" (Sept. 9) was about people with no intention of becoming decent citizens, who are primarily seeking refuge to mooch. And why should my taxes support those who publicly call our politicians "stupid" and our police "inept?"

While she is correct in our inability or lack of will to solve the homeless problem, which is far more complicated than one would think, compassion for those who are able-bodied and insist on being a nuisance at the expense of others should not be tolerated if one seeks a thriving city.

Many who have fallen through the cracks should be attended to properly, yes.

I lived in New York up until Rudy Giuliani took reigns as mayor. While his tactics were often heavy-handed, they were effective. The New York I left became inhabitable. I visit yearly and feel much safer overall - of which Ms. Geigle-Teller makes no mention. Can some of her assertions be backed up? Has she ever lived in New York?

Democracy places trust in the collective body to behave. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and a response of "compassion and generosity" is dangerous at best.

Lee Brodinsky


That Portland doesn't exist

When I began reading Jim Speirs' op-ed 'Is Portland really a 'Mecca for bums'?' (Sept. 16), my first thought was 'Where was this guy walking?'

Then I read, 'There was not a block that we walked that didn't have dozens of aggressive, obnoxious and smelly panhandlers demanding money,' and I knew he could not be taken seriously.

I walk in downtown Portland frequently. I have never seen a block fitting his description.

Dozens? Was he walking outside an agency catering to the homeless? Was he circling Pioneer Square? On an ordinary block, never.

Aggressive? Rarely.

Obnoxious? There are plenty of unpleasant people in the world, most of whom are not panhandlers.

Smelly? Occasionally my nose is offended by someone on the street or on public transportation, but usually it's the smell of tobacco smoke clinging to clothing rather than the odor of a poor soul who doesn't have the advantage of a home with a bathroom.

The Portland Mr. Speirs describes does not exist.

In my experience, anyone indulging is such hyperbole is clearly an untrustworthy observer, most likely with a hidden agenda who deserves to be dismissed.

Sandy Polishuk

Northeast Portland

State constitution needs amending

I keep hearing that nothing can be done about panhandling because it's protected by the Oregon Constitution. Why not amend the Oregon Constitution so that its free speech limits are the same as, and no greater than, the U.S. constitution's? Then our civic leaders would have no excuse not to clean up our streets.

Stuart Weitz

Northwest Portland

New York homeless got a free ride

You forgot reason No. 1 on why New York got rid of its panhandlers: They gave them one-way tickets to any city other than New York. Top destination was the West Coast and that was due to climate, not kindness.

Why didn't the reporter mention this?

Kirk Hochstatter


Businesses welcome in the suburbs

The cool thing is that there's no reason for the Portland Outdoor Store to be actually located in the city of Portland (Would Rudy Giuliani put up with this?, Sept. 9).

If the store owners are unhappy with the response of city government to this problem, they are likely to find more favorable conditions in Beaverton, Gresham, Clackamas or Oregon City. Given conditions in Portland, it always surprises me there are any businesses left there at all.

Matt Evans

Southwest Portland

Bring back the sit/lie ordinance

Why no mention in the article of how the "no sit-no lie" law being repealed is the biggest reason why downtown has turned into a urine-ridden blight and why the west half of the Burnside Bridge has turned into an encampment for bums (Would Rudy Giuliani put up with this?, Sept. 9)?

The real solution to cleaning up downtown is to enact a loitering law. Portland is the only city I've ever been to where no such law is on the books.

Kick these people just lounging on sidewalks off their butts and on their feet. Are there no laws regulating the obstruction of sidewalks in Portland?

Raymond Anthony Beliech

Southeast Portland

Portland should welcome all lifestyles

I got heartsick when I saw the term "lifestyle crimes" in the recent article 'Would Rudy Giuliani put up with this?' (Sept. 9).

The idea of a lifestyle crime in our downtown corridor assumes there is a right and wrong lifestyle. If you are homeless or can't get a job to feed your family, then you are on the other side of the lifestyle ledger. This pits one side against the other.

Just because other cities are cleansing themselves of the unskilled, the poor and the footloose with sit/lie ordinances, it doesn't mean we should go down the same road.

We don't want to shoo away an undeveloped Hemingway or a developing Keruoac. By the way, Giuliani couldn't get a job as dog catcher in New York City. Think on that.

Buddy Bee Anthony

Southeast Portland

Esplanade has been destroyed

I went for a walk on the Eastbank Esplanade. What was once a nice clean, kept-up area has turned into a cesspool (Would Rudy Giuliani put up with this?, Sept. 9).

There was garbage everywhere: cigarette butts, leftover food scraps, even several articles of clothing scattered throughout the area. The portable potty near the Steel Bridge was removed, with a sign saying it was due to vandalism. Same with some areas of the Westbank - especially where the homeless tend to congregate, like near the Burnside Bridge.

It's obscene that the city has allowed such a prime area, used and enjoyed by so many residents and tourists, to become a haven for those that choose not to contribute to society. They have taken over, and destroyed it.

Julie Woelfer

Northeast Portland

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