Last weekend a group of people showed up in the idyllic neighborhood in Portland where Mayor Charlie Hales lives. These folks were not the usual group of activists that normally shows up at demonstrations in the City of Roses. Rather they were working class families from neighborhoods in S.E. Portland who were there to ask the Mayor to find a solution to the homeless problem that has overwhelmed city resources.
Portland’s Springwater Corridor overtaken by homeless campers
In the late 1990’s the city of Portland and neighboring communities built a 40-mile loop trail called the Springwater Corridor. It was designed to accommodate bikers, joggers and just about anybody else who enjoys the outdoors. Thousands of people used and enjoyed the trail. However, over the past few summers’ homeless people have turned the Springwater Corridor into a camping community and created tensions between the homeless community and those who live next to the trail and want to use it. Drugs, sexual assaults and the dumping of trash along the trail have made the trail unsafe. Under pressure, Mayor Hales, who has decided not to run for re-election, announced that police would sweep the trail and force the homeless campers from the area.
Estimates are that about 500 people homeless people, including families live along the Springwater Corridor It is unclear where those people will move to when they are forced out of their camps. Portland, like many cities, has more homeless people than they have shelters, and there are no readily apparent place for these people to go.
San Francisco considered a payroll tax to pay for homeless housing
In San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar proposed a 1.5% payroll tax on technology companies in the bay area that would raise more than $120 million a year to provide low-cost housing for the cities more than 6,600 homeless people.
"Tech companies are getting huge tax breaks and making tremendous profits. We think measures like this are an important way to have large tech companies pay their fair share for the impacts they’re causing in our city. "— Eric Mar
The homeless problem in San Francisco has been brewing for a long time. The tech boom has generated many thousands of high paying jobs, which in turn has created a spike in the already high housing costs in the city. There is an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Widening gap between the haves and have-nots
In 2015, The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimated that on any given night there were some 564,708 homeless people on the streets of American cities. Nearly a quarter of the homeless were families with young children. Cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, and the state of Hawaii have declared emergencies to deal with the rising homeless crisis.
There is no easy or cheap solution to the homeless problem in America. The proposed tech company tax proposed for San Francisco failed to make it to a November vote after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors refused to place the measure on the ballot. In Portland, the city announced the end of a pilot program that allowed homeless people to sleep on city streets.
The widening gap between the haves and have-nots ensures that this problem will not go away anytime soon. Unfortunately, no one has yet to find a workable solution to this growing national problem.