The Homeless Need A Good Night’s Sleep Too

Tam Nguyen, a member of the city council of San Jose, California, spent his Memorial Day weekend in Portland, Oregon, sleeping in the Right To Dream Too homeless encampment.

Nguyen has been on the council for a year, and in that time he says his colleagues have constantly dismissed the idea of supporting encampments, arguing that they foster crime and other social ills.

They have been, instead, talking about building permanent housing for the homeless.

But Nguyen says those discussions have dragged on and on for years and he's had it with all the talk and no action.

He accepted an invitation to visit Right To Dream Too “out of frustration,” he said, and “to experience for myself the good and the bad of it.”

He says what he found was a highly functional community, and one that could use improvements.

People living there told him “we want safety, we’re tired of being beat up and kicked and harassed on the street, we want a safe night’s sleep, a good night’s sleep,” he said.

“It’s very safe and it’s very desirable for people who need a place to sleep.

Of course it could be improved in many ways.”

Now he’s going to bring his experience back to share with his colleagues in San Jose as a way to explore the option of supporting encampments while plans for more permanent housing slowly grind on.


Queenbeethatsme's picture
Queenbeethatsme 8 years 1 week ago

There are many reasons why the homeless are homeless and it is far deeper than a good night's sleep or some housing.
Many need drug intervention and mental health services and some need life skills and coping skills.

Throwing food stamps, housing, free meals at those who for whatever reason are outside the strictures if society are like putting a bandaid over an amputated limb.

you don't need empathy ( though it helps) or experiencing one night in someone's life to understand their predicament .

In fact it is impossible to understand the failings and crashes of a life in a visit or three.

Social failures are slashings of a thousand small cuts, people rarely just become homeless, it is a series of unfortunate events and them lacking the skills and resources to bounce back from those events. Many of these events are a result of their own very poor choices and decisions.

cpvony's picture
cpvony 8 years 1 week ago

Thom, a lot has changed since you've lived in Portland.

It should be noted that Right To Dream Too was on private property and allowed by a private party. The group self-polices inside the 'camp.'

Unfortunately Portland elected Charlie Hales as mayor (whose only concert seems to be making sure developers get really good deals on City owned property and that the City buys property at a massive premium). Charlie Hales' edict allowed Portland's homeless to camp overnight in public areas (except around his neighborhood) with absolutely no oversight or security. No protection for women.

A group did set up a planned and controlled/protected spot for homeless women. But the City sold the property instead and kicked them out. They are still waiting for a replacement spot.

Portland is a disgusting mess now. No one is really safe - homed or homeless. Crime is up. Many reports of strangers trying to nab children. Homeless sex-offenders spending the days on people's porches. Garbage, drugs/paraphenalia and human feces are all over the bike trails. Oh, yes, and they keep inadequately funding the (very) understaffed Portland Police Bureau.

If only the City of Portland could be responsible enough to administer a homeless camp or anything really. Our City Council and mayor are only concerned about real estate investment. (or divestment.)

etm1109's picture
etm1109 8 years 1 week ago

I've read people blaming the homeless long enough. I have a different tack on this problem. The cost of housing. I was recently in the Bay area and I can't help but notice those little ranch homes that were built after the war in the suburbs now cost up to and over a million dollars. In San Francisco proper, homes are approaching 2 million and up. This is being felt in almost every major community in America now. Here where I live, homes are now approaching the 500K in the suburbs. A 1.5 million dollar home requires 300K down ( 20% ) and has a payment before taxes of about $5500. Throw in another 3 to 5K for state and local property taxes and your close to $10,000 a month for a modest 2000 sq ft home. I firmly believe this is a significant driver of homelessness as the jobs that are being created cannot keep up with these prices on a mass scale.

Rudicus's picture
Rudicus 8 years 1 week ago

I believe Tam has a beginning of understanding the problem of the homeless, as a person currently homeless since May 2010 living in the back of my truck, after getting sick (Heart Attack) losing my Medical certificate as a Pilot. ineligible for Medicare in Florida and no health care Medical bankruptcy etc. and under age 65, white Male, US citizen, and since I'm not an Alcoholic, Drug abuser or Mental patient, or a abused female or teenager I do not "Qualified" for any housing or government aid. its almost impossible to get back your Health to the point you can work a simple job, forget rent, I'm looking for FOOD,WATER, Gas, A safe place to park and sleep out of the Heat without the Police or "Tow truck Sharks" attacking and me and a clean place to take a dump and shower. all your energy is wasted in trying to servive.

We Need PUBLIC Safe Zones to Sleep, Park, Camp, Shit, Shower and Shave.

Legend 8 years 1 week ago

San Jose CA has among the most homeless people and an economy that could help prevent it. Soup kitchens, medical care and low income housing can be organized. You can invent the driverless car in San Jose but you cannot do soup Kitchens, medical care and low income housing? Reagan closed the mental hospitals and now the mental patients are on the street. $10.00 an hour employees cannot afford housing in San Jose.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 3 days ago

Queenbeethat'sme, studies of the homeless and not homeless found that not homeless people make bad decisions too but what distinguishes them is that the homeless don't have family to back them up - and in the era of no social safety net that will make all the difference. The homeless are the surplus population that used to work in manufacturing. Now they are useful to keep private prisons well stocked.

The National Coalition for the Homeless, on its website, stated that the toughest states in the Union to be homeless are Florida, California and Hawaii. Travelling homeless people have told me that - and I didn't check it but - Florida has 500 prisons, most of the them private, and you can do six months for spitting on the sidewalk in Florida - if you're black, Hispanic and/or poor. Another told me it's a felony to sleep outside in Florida and when you're released after doing your time you got nowhere to sleep so you're back in like the old, southern vagrancy laws.

After manufacturing left the United States, not only were the good jobs for the uneducated and unskilled gone with them but also, the Federal, state and local tax base was gone. So the new tax base was property taxes. So good jobs were gone, the social safety net was starved and housing cost skyrocketed.

The inevitable result was mass homelessness. But the 1% is cool with that, no sweat off them. They got the Republican party AND the Democratic party.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 1 day ago

Cpvony, the homeless are the most vulnerable population to crime, they don't even have a front door. That's why the encampments are helpful to them. The police commonly don't care what happens to a homeless person and usually don't even investigate the most egregious crimes and hate crimes against them.

There is a very apparent, operant idea of "relative value of human beings" at work. It's not really illegal to murder homeless people if you aren't homeless. A homeless man was murdered by teenagers in Chicago a couple of years ago and the jury, although they acknowledged the crime was committed by the accused, would not convict them.

In general, the criminal justice system in the United States operates on that principle. The punishment a convicted person receives depends on the social station of the victim. I.e., if you're a rich, spoiled playboy heir to a fortune your murderer will certainly be executed; if you are a poor laborer working two or three jobs for the privilege of living in poverty your murderer might serve as little as 3 years - unless your murderer is the rich playboy, in which case he probably won't be convicted if even charged.

Bruce F. Rauner's picture
Bruce F. Rauner 7 years 51 weeks ago

Zero: 2015 was the national effort to reduce the number of chronic homeless veterans to ZERO by January 1 2016. Locally two veterans homeless - one for a month and another for 3 months - were so unusual to make the newspaper serving about 250,000 population.

Zero: 2016 is the national effort to reduce the number of chronic homeless persons to ZERO by January 1, 2017.
National event just announced:

2016 National Zarrow Mental Health Symposium Ready For Zero: Innovative + Sustainable Solutions For Housing & Recovery

Tulsa, Oklahoma September 28 – 30, 2016

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