This article is from the Occupied News Wire. Originally published in the Portland Occupier. All photos by ‘Paul’.
It was the night of November 14th, and there was a spontaneous late-night march in downtown Portland. Several Occupy camps were evicted by authorities that night, including Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, and Occupy Zürich.
Around 10:30, I was leaving the area around Pioneer Square and noticed some folks had their belongings with them and were huddled or sitting together. Based on people carrying more than a purse or backpack, I believed the individuals were homeless. It was very cold out — my fingers were getting pretty icy. I was about to go home and had a strike of compassion in my heart realizing that some of the people may not have a warm cozy home or bed to go to tonight. I saw a group of nine bike police officers standing and talking outside Nordstrom’s and thought that I could ask the police officers if they had information regarding shelters and resources for those who did not have a place to sleep tonight. I had heard Mayor Sam Adams at the afternoon’s press release say that people were talked to the preceding Saturday night regarding housing and given resources.
I approached the officers. Most of them were engaged and talking amongst themselves, two were sitting on the ground sharing something on their smartphones, and two officers, Officer Livingston and Officer Lax, were standing to the side watching the events on Pioneer Square. I introduced myself and asked Officers Livingston and Lax if they knew anything about resources for people who did not have a place to sleep and people facing homelessness and they were very kind and polite to me. Officer Livingston said the best thing to do was contact Central Precinct. He gave me the phone number (503-823-0097). I said thank you, and I left their side. I called Central Precinct, and spoke with Gary who did not give his last name (I did not ask).
Gary mentioned that individuals were given the Rose City Resource Guide, which could reached by calling 211. I called 211 and got a message machine that said they were closed. Hours of operation were 8 am-6 pm, and if it was an emergency, I could call 911 or “if you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call 503-988-4888.” I called Gary at Central Precinct back. I mentioned I had access to the internet and he said I could check the Rose City Resource website. I checked the website, which listed many of their partners on the homepage. I then clicked on the link on the right side which was titled “hotlines.” The hotline list included phone numbers and descriptions of local social service agencies and providers.
I first called the Housing Authority of Downtown Portland listed at 503-288-5750. The phone number was invalid–a voice told me that my call could not be completed. Then, I called the Multnomah County Health Department at 503-988-3816. A message machine picked up and said the office was closed for the day. Next, I called the Raphael House of Portland at 503-222-6222 for information. The woman who picked up explained that Raphael House is a shelter for women escaping domestic violence. The specific requirements for the Raphael House were difficult to distinguish on the Rose City Resource Guide website–I thought it was a general shelter for anyone before calling. The woman I spoke with suggested I call the Women’s Crisis Line at 503-235-5333.
I called the Women’s Crisis Line and spoke with a woman name Natalie. She listened to me and gave me the inside scoop about shelters around Portland. She mentioned that there was only one shelter in town, The Family Winter Shelter, that was taking people in for the night. She also mentioned that The Family Winter Shelter only took in pregnant women and families. I had noticed children and families at the General Assembly at Pioneer Square that night so I asked how they defined a “family” and she described as “must have kids.” She also mentioned that the Women’s Winter Shelter at the YWCA would be opening tomorrow evening. She gave me the phone numbers and addresses of each organization and explained how shelters in Portland work–someone who is interested in staying a night has to call to reserve a spot and shelters open around 7 or 7:30 PM for folks to stay the night.
I asked Natalie about Bud Clark Commons, and she responded that Bud Clark Commons has a long wait list, probably about three months. She mentioned that Bud Clark Commons might have some day services, and explained that they serve men and women. We then spoke a bit more about volunteering with various homeless/poverty organizations and I learned Sisters of the Road can always use people to help serve meals and that Our Mother’s House meets on Saturdays at the downtown chapel to help women to get out of the sex trade. She also mentioned that different organizations have different levels of volunteerism since there is the social service aspect; some organizations have training programs that take 50 hours. I thanked Natalie and hung up.
As the Family Winter Shelter was open that night, I called both phone numbers provided (503-548-0200 and 503-405-7875). Each phone number went straight to a message machine in which I went to leave a message and was met with, “the message wait is full.”
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