By Vargus Pike
Sometimes in life it is all in how you look at it. One of the condemnations of the Portland occupation is that there were reportedly three near fatal drug overdoses in the camp. The mayor has used this as one of the reasons to force the shut down of the camps. When looked at from a different direction it can be argued that this was a primary reason not to shut down the occupation. The important point is that all three people lived. Why did they live? Because there were people around to call for help when they overdosed, so they didn’t die alone in some back alley or doorway. Mayor Adams has also cited the drug and alcohol use as well as the violence that has occurred in and around the Occupation camp including one stabbing. I hate to say it but this is a normal aspect of our society and our city. It is not something unique to Occupy Portland or any of the other occupation camps around the nation.
Time for some numbers. In August there were four stabbings city wide in one week. Recent crime statistics cite 25 murders over 200 rapes and over 2000 incidents of assault in Portland. By comparison Occupy Portland has been relatively peaceful. A report from the Portland housing bureau and others stated that last January there were 1718 people who were living unsheltered on the streets of Portland at that time, and 347 of those were sleeping somewhere in the downtown area. The report also stated “ Half of Multnomah County’s homeless population reported having a disabling condition, which could include health problems, a physical disability, cognitive/ developmental disability, substance abuse, mental health issues, or HIV/ AIDS. The percentage of unsheltered respondents with disabling conditions was significantly higher (55%) than those in emergency shelter (43%), and slightly higher than respondents in transitional housing (51%).” So in downtown alone almost 200 people were living on the streets and suffering from some serious physical or mental condition. In 2010 the Oregon state medical examiner reported that there were 200 overdose deaths statewide or approximately one every 1.8 days.
Eighty-seven of these deaths occurred in Multnomah county, an average of one every 4.2 days. With that kind of average it is not surprising that there have been three overdoses in the last month. Fortunately these three incidents will not become a part of that statistic this year, thanks to the occupation
Occupy Portland has not created these problems, it has only exposed them. In my opinion, mayors across the country do not want to shut down the camps for safety reasons. They want to shut down the camps because they are drawing attention to the severe social problems that our current government and society has been turning a blind eye to for far too long. They want to shut down the Occupation because they are afraid that for the the first time since the social reforms of the sixties, the people will be able to see that the Emperor has no clothes. Indeed sometimes in life it is all in how you look at it. Pike Lives.