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by Huxley

Cameron Whitten Enters 53rd Day of Hunger Strike

2:16 am in Uncategorized by Huxley

See also my previous diary and MzChief’s coverage.

Photobucket

(Photo Credit: The Oregonian)

Activist Cameron Whitten has been living outside of City Hall for 53 days, while on a hunger strike, at Occupy Portland’s 24/7 Vigil to call attention to the growing housing crisis in Portland, Oregon.  His fast has started to shine light on the most vulnerable of our population, bringing attention to Portland’s poor and the abuses being committing against them.

A bit of background: The City of Portland has been fining the property owners of the Right 2 Dream Too Rest Area (R2DToo).  R2DToo, a non-profit organization, has been an extremely successful place where unhoused people can rest in a drug free environment without being rousted by police or private security, and without the constant fear of violence and sexual assault.  It is opposed however by the Portland Business Alliance (Portland’s Chamber of Commerce).

The fines are doubling every month and City Hall is doing everything it can to shut down the Rest Area.  Many of those staying at R2DToo, as well as a number of housing justice activists in the community, have been frustrated with City Commissioners lack of dialogue with the community over what the plans are to do with the folks staying at R2DToo if they are successful in shutting it down.  City Hall appears not to want to have any discussions with individuals affected by their decisions, or with any other citizens who are concerned about the issue or transparent government.

On the 50th day of Whitten’s hunger strike, a rally was held across City Hall which attracted a crowd of over 200.  Portland’s two mayoral candidates, Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith, gave some support, both speaking at the rally, however the current Mayor and City Commissioners have yet to bring to the table any reasonable solutions to the issue.

Now that the media has picked up on this story, and a growing debate on the issue has started in the community, recent notices have been sent from the City, causing some to fear the Mayor may, instead of having an honest conversation with the public, use police force to shut down political discourse and remove Occupy Portland’s legally permitted 24/7 Vigil outside of City Hall.

While City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is the one overseeing the fines on R2DToo, refuses to work with Whitten on the account of the request for some sort of citizen oversight over City Hall’s actions, Commissioner Nick Fish has struck a more conciliatory tone, stating he is taking seriously a letter from Mark Kramer, an attorney from the National Lawyers Guild, calling for R2DToo to remain open.

Hopefully City Hall will do the right thing soon.  Whitten has just called for a mass march, rally, and sleep over outside of City Hall on August 10th, which would be the 70th day of Whitten’s fast.

More info:

Right 2 Survive

Right 2 Dream Too

Audio Interview with Whitten

 

by Huxley

Portland’s Cameron Whitten on Day 33 of Hunger Strike for Housing Justice

4:40 pm in Uncategorized by Huxley

Seven months ago, after the encampments of Occupy Portland were shut down, a 24/7 vigil outside of City Hall was set up to bring light to the ban on camping and Portland’s serious homelessness issues.  The Vigil has been occupied all day, all week since that time.  For 33 days now Cameron Whitten, a former mayoral candidate  and Occupy Portland activist extraordinaire, has been living at the Vigil and partaking in a hunger strike.  Read an interview of Whitten from the Portland Mercury here.

Whitten has been advocating for housing justice and the most vulnerable of our community, in particular for the nonprofit organization, Right 2 Dream Too (R2DToo) Rest Area.  A description of R2DToo:

Right 2 Dream Too (R2DToo) exists to awaken social and political groups to the importance of safe and undisturbed sleep. Our purpose is to create a place where unhoused people can rest or sleep without being rousted by police or private security and without being under the constant threat of violence. We hope to create a cost-effective, self-sustaining model that can be replicated elsewhere.

R2DToo has considerable community support, however the City is continuing to fine the property owners of the site for letting houseless individuals sleep/rest at the location.  At the same time they are not bringing those who are houseless to the table to discuss viable solutions.  Whitten’s hunger strike is asking City Council to form a citizens panel on homelessness to specifically bring houseless people into the conversation to amend the camping ban and to negotiate for a setting for a transitional housing site.

Whitten is calling for the following:

1. For City Commissioner Dan Saltzman to withdraw the fines on the co-owners of the Right 2 Dream Too Rest Area, and to seek a peaceful resolution for this cost-free solution to homelessness for the remainder of the lease agreement.

2. Creation of a task force composed of concerned citizens and non-profit organizations to find better ways to provide basic city services to those without.

3. Initiation of a dialogue between city officials and representatives of the houseless community to find an alternative to the current ban on camping in the city.

4. Location of a city site capable of providing shelter and basic services for 300 persons.

Portland has the image of a progressive town, but unfortunately the issues of homelessness and housing do not get nearly the amount of attention needed from our media and policymakers.  During his hunger strike, Whitten has met with Mayor Sam Adams, the two mayoral candidates Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith, as well as Portland’s City Commissioners.  Despite these meetings, City Commissioners have yet to agree to meet any of the actions asked by Whitten and supporters of Portland’s houseless community.  Nonetheless, Cameron Whitten’s actions have started to shine a light on these issues and on people  typically ignored, who do not have the resources of the Portland Business Alliance to advocate on their behalf.

The media is starting to become more interested in this story as well.  The Associated Press ran a story last week, The Oregonian published another piece today, and the Portland Mercury has been covering the story frequently. There are also plans for a mass rally outside of Portland City Hall on Friday, July 20th to (Whitten’s 50th day anniversary of his hunger strike) to further the calls for housing justice in the Rose City.

If you would like to help spread the word, please learn more about Right 2 Survive and Right 2 Dream Too.

Follow Cameron Whitten on Twitter for daily updates on the hunger strike.

Consider a donation to Occupy Portland’s 24/7 Vigil outside of City Hall.