Originally published by GranolaRouge.com Sept 21st, 2010
Man was I pumped. In late July I get an e-mail from my boss saying that our next mid-season marketing meetings would be in Portland Oregon!!! WOO HOO!! FInally, a chance to get to the city that all are compared to when the discussion turns to cycling culture, safe riding, incredible trails, and infrastructure. In addition, it has a couple of running trails. This was going to be awesome. Cool weather, the great wild northwest, awesome running and as many homeless people and junkies as the eye can see….SCREEEECHHHHH!!!!!! What you ask, does that mean? Read on…
I arrived on Sunday and immediately myself and a coworker set out to find some grub. We walked about 20 blocks and ended up at Deschutes Brewery for some locally brewed beers and dinner. Don’t mistake it, Portland knows its beer and it is has one of the most diverse selections of food I have ever seen. In addition, the Food Truck scene is out of control. If you want to try a bunch of cool different ethnic foods for cheap, this is definitely the way to go. On the way back to the hotel the first night, I began to notice an alarming trend. This so called utopia of fitness was filthy, and over run with homeless people.
Let me go ahead and fend off the “you are not sensitive” and the “not everyone who is homeless wants to be that way” comments now by saying that I realize there are tens of thousands of homeless people who have genuine intense mental problems as well as veterans and people just out of work. But there was something strange in the air in Portland. It seemed to be some sort of mecca of homelessness. Hundreds of seemingly able bodied youth were hacky sacking and begging at the same time. They had pets and guitars and they literally sit in the sidewalks day and night. You would almost trip on them walking out of restaurants and just walking down the streets. Portland’s copious amounts of parks have become places of gathering for large numbers of transients. The state apparently also has risen to #1 status in homelessness per capita, due to its massive programs for free needles, shelters and the like.
I bring all of this up really to make a point to all of those in our fair city who say, “We need to be more like Portland,” or Austin, or any of a host of up and coming cities in our nation. I did get to run on some of the most beautiful trails that are right outside of Portland. I got to see some incredibly cool architecture and Portland’s bike culture is omnipresent. But if the choice is to revitalize a downtown into a squatters haven in exchange for these amenities, I have to ask myself, seriously, if it really is worth it.