If you walk around Portland, Oregon, like we do when we visit, you can’t ignore one of the biggest problems in this city — homelessness, the number of people who live on the streets and the depth of their troubles. Many people find it hard to believe, but homelessness is still a huge problem all across America, and it seems like progress even in progressive cities has been just minimal.
On a recent trip to Portland, something different caught our eye around 4th & Burnside, right at the gate to Chinatown. Behind the painted doors you see in my pictures is Right 2 Dream Too, a small tent city in a donated lot. It is a safe place for Portland’s homeless to sleep, a drug- and alcohol-free area for many who don’t know where else to go. This non-profit project is run by Right 2 Survive who work to empower and inform those living in poverty, something I am a strong advocate of since my days of working in microfinance.
I did not know about Right 2 Dream Too before happening on it, so I quickly shot these as we were rushing to catch the last bus home. The doors along the sidewalk are what most people see when they pass by. They are functional art, creating a privacy barrier for the people living there.
They also have a Paint-a-Door project, as a way to raise money for the basic needs of the people they support. Doors serve as a great visual reminder for those who pass by, being symbolic of doors to homes which many do not have. It would be nice to have more projects like these, with community engagement.
In the few minutes we were there, we saw one Chinatown businessman stop by — just to donate food from his restaurant. Nonetheless, its struggles have included fines from the city, for not having the appropriate recreational permit for “camping out.” In what would be otherwise an empty lot? Why does it feel like the law always favors those who have the most?
Here are stories of three R2D2 residents, put together by PSU students for Street Roots, and the rest of my photos: