I don’t know how you may feel about the Occupy movement. If you don’t support it for whatever reason, I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince you if you don’t get it by now. If you do support Occupy, please read on.
As you may already know, Occupy Portland has been running a vigil in front of Portland City Hall since last December 1 to protest the Portland anti-camping ban ordinance. Perhaps it’s easier to understand why they are there if you consider the following facts:
- Every able member of our society is expected to earn the money they need to put a roof over their heads and buy food via a “job” of some sort.
- However, our economic system is not able, and never will be able, to provide employment to everyone. The dominant economic theory holds that there is actually an optimal unemployment level of around 5 percent.
- Over the last thirty years, the safety net that is supposed to help provide for the unemployed has been systematically weakened.
- Over the same period of time, aid to disabled members of our society, who would not be able to hold a job regardless of economic conditions, has also been significantly diminished.
- As a result, many chronically unemployed and disabled members of our society eventually run out money, and if they don’t happen to have friends or family who are financially able and willing to bail them out, they end up homeless.
- Finally, once they are out on the streets, it is illegal to camp anywhere. And, it should be obvious by now that whatever aid to the homeless there is that is provided by faith and other non-profit organizations, it is not adequate and certainly never will be.
We have a system that forces people into a situation in which they are homeless but it is effectively illegal to be homeless. It’s freaking Kafkaesque. It is a nightmare that this situation exists and for people that have to live it day-by-day, pretty close to hell on earth. And, considering the way our health insurance system works, this could happen to just about anyone.
This is from Article 25 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
I know it’s a pipe dream to think that a lofty and noble document such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights to hold any sway in much of the U.S., where don’t even seem to get the U.S. Constitution except as it pertains to buying guns and ammo. But in Portland, where we pride ourselves on being different and progressive, and where we are proud of what we have done to achieve an enviable level of urban livability, I think most people would hold Article 25 as a goal that we should strive to attain. How then can we permit people to be forced into the circumstance of homelessness to begin with, and then pass ordinances that make being in that circumstance illegal. How fucking livable is that?
I would agree that many of the global economic factors that create chronic unemployment in our community are out the control of city government. However, how we treat and accommodate people forced into homelessness are not. The Occupy Portland Vigil at Portland City Hall creates a forum for discussion and action toward making sure all of our citizens are treated with dignity and have at least a place to lay their heads at night, even if it may be, sadly, in a tent.
My friend Mary Nichols, who is not houseless but spends every other night serving the needs of those attending the vigil, is requesting donations toward $150 the vigil needs for a Ustream-enabled phone. The purpose of the phone is to help promote the vigil and its ultimate purpose of repealing the camping ban. You can read more about it and also donate by clicking here: http://vigil4homeless.chipin.com/livestreaming-vigil.
Please pass this message on to your friends. It will only take a few dozen people chipping in $5 or so to reach the goal of $150.