Run For The Shadows

“We came out of the doorways of Portland’s streets, out from under the bridges, from under the bushes of public parks, we came openly with nothing and no longer a need to hide as Portland’s inhumane and Draconian camping ban had just been overturned on two constitutional grounds. We came armed with a vision of a better future for ourselves and for all of Portland, a vision of a green, sustainable urban village where we can live in peace and improve not only the condition of our own lives but the quality of life in Portland in general. We came in from the cold of a December day and we refuse to go back to the way things were.”

–Statement on the Dignity Village website

This is the story of Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon — how advocates and the homeless people got together and created a safe, healthy community where people without walls can find a place to live.

It all started when the homeless, aided by activists, tired of living in the shadows (not exactly David Bowie’s Golden Years), protested against the public camping ban. As is the case in Bucks County, PA, homeless people were chased from camps and had to move from place to place.  Whenever they were kicked out, they packed up their stuff in their shopping carts and pushed the carts in a parade to the next location. High profile standoffs with officials ensued.

Advocates got involved legally and used the media to champion the homeless cause in Portland to help the homeless.

Dignity Camp registered as a non profit in December, 2001. After being removed from a site under a bridge, Dignity camp spread up into three groups and moved to three different locations, two of them outside the city. The camp within the city limits was swept. One of the camps that moved outside the city survived. Initially the residents thought it was too far from various services, but they worked things out and after surviving temporary status for three years, it was sanctioned as an official tiny house village in 2004 by the Portland City Council.

Dignity Village became legit after the city council designated a portion of Sunderland Yard as a designated campground.

Amenities at Dignity Village include:

  • Showers
  • Sanitary facilities
  • Private and communal food and flower gardens
  • Communal cooking and refrigeration facilities
  • Emergency transportation
  • Access to education
  • Access to counseling
  • Access to television (limited)
  • Distribution of donated food, personal items and construction material
  • Internet access
  • Weekly community meetings
  • On-site veterinary and medical care on a scheduled basis by volunteer doctors and nurses
  • Access to prescription medication assistance
  • Rudimentary first aid
  • Access to telephone

To prevent Dignity Village from becoming a Lord of the flies like the alleged emergency shelter in Levittown, PA, the village requires residents to sign a membership agreement with rules of behavior:

  1. No violence toward yourself or others.No illegal substances or alcohol or paraphernalia on the premises or within a one-block radius.
  2. No stealing.
  3. Everyone contributes to the upkeep and welfare of the village and works to become a productive member of the community.
  4. No disruptive behavior of any kind that disturbs the general peace and welfare of the village.

The homeless in Bucks County, PA are still living in the shadows, and continually have to run from them. When the homeless in lower Bucks County were in a jam, unlike the advocates in Portland who got the public camping ban lifted on legal grounds, the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) whined that they cannot get involved in legal issues.

We need more people who will buck the system in Bucks County and persuade the public and advocate for the homeless in any way they can, including legally so the homeless in lower Bucks County don’t have to run from the shadows and give them more golden years.

Gold whop whop whop…