The Right to Dream Too (R2DToo) shelter in downtown Portland affirms sleep as a basic human right. This compact outdoor shelter is in the heart of Portland’s Old Town and on the edge of its Chinatown. It has tarps serving as a roof and wooden doors edging the sidewalk much like a fence. Inside are tents, cots, and other places to safely bed down for the day or night. Numerous portable bathrooms and washing facilities also on hand.
I ran across Right to Dream Too encampment while on a short sight-seeing trip
I stood on the corner of Fourth Avenue NW and Burnside Street, looking at the busy homeless encampment which, from all appearances, seemed organized with clearly-marked rules and also large statements of empowerment and affirmation. Those who were not sleeping (many do so during the day) were out and about talking with one another, exchanging items, or picking through donations.
Dozens of people flowed past me as I stood listening and looking around. Clearly, the prominent spot of the encampment allows for the opportunity of a lot of public awareness. People manning the entrance are friendly, helpful and seem to welcome people to a table with pamphlets and other information on it. When people stop they have a chance to explain how the camp operates, its rules and regulations and also spread the word about one thing that may be helping.
Salem, too, has a homeless population and problem. The Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force and other groups are grappling with how best to come up with a long-term solution that gets people off the street. Rental rates are rising here, too. So, it only stands to reason that Salem’s housing problem will worsen just as Portland’s has. As I looked around the homely, but seemingly effective, Right To Dream Too encampment I wondered if this could be a model for Salem and the task force to consider.
It’s worth noting that a formerly homeless man launched the Right to Dream Too encampment, according to its website. By contrast, the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative has no homeless people serving on its task force. Will that make a difference in getting programs or housing solutions up and running in Salem, quickly? It’s not clear at this point.
new location by October.
I’m glad the encampment will be in a bigger spot to serve more people. I hope it doesn’t lose its heart-felt touch of homemade signs, and its ability to raise public awareness with people on the street on the basic right of sleep. While the encampment surely can’t accommodate all the homeless people on the streets of Portland, it can serve as a model of what’s possible or, at least, what’s humane.