The Elephant in the Room: Why Do Oregon Media Outlets Refuse to Address the Drug Crisis?
You should’ve been there.
Christmas season 2017 in downtown Portland. Shoppers eagerly browse the luxury shops in Pioneer Place, Apple loyalists pack out the arguably best designed Apple store in the nation, children wait to sit on Santa’s lap next to the famous Pioneer Square Christmas tree.
All was right in the world.
But if you could have seen Portland this Christmas, you might not have believed its former glory.
Portland’s woes are no secret. Protests, riots, burned down federal buildings, massive business closers, the strictest mask policy in the nation and of course the ever worsening homeless crisis, has put us smackdab in the national spotlight.
We’ve lost our reputation or at least bruised it (along with our ego).
And although the dust is beginning to settle, one glaring issue remains prominent; Homelessness and drug addiction.
Despite the city government’s recent (and somewhat laughable) campaign to urge holiday shoppers to return to downtown, it hasn’t seemed to work.
Pedestrian numbers in downtown showed almost no increase from last year during the first two weekends of holiday shopping, according to the Portland Business Alliance.
Overall, foot traffic remains roughly 60% of what it was in 2019, according to the PBA’s Katie Mongue.
That is a massive hit to business in the city’s core and if it continues at this rate, it’s not a matter of if businesses will close or relocate, it’s a matter of when.
People simply do not want to go where they feel unsafe. According to a recent poll by The Oregonian, residents admit downtown feels too dangerous— especially at night. The poll also cited homelessness as the main issue deterring visits downtown and including trash, graffiti, vandalism and violent crime.
And of course the sharp rise in used needles strewn about the city hasn’t helped. How charming.
The residents of Portland and the surrounding counties have seemede to reacch a consensus: They’re fed up.
But one thing continues to boggle my mind. As I read the almost daily articles about the homeless crisis in the mainstream mdeia outlets, I am amazed at the complete failure to mention the devastating fentanyl and drug crisis in Oregon.
We hear so much about access to housing, rent assistance agendas, behavioral health treatment, even syringe exchange programs, but no mention of the elephant in the room.
Since the decriminalization of narcotics in Oregon, Portland is an absolute mess. Drug overdose deaths have more than doubled between 2019 and 2021 (a staggering statistic) and perhaps the most horrifying fact is the 83% jump in homicides this year.
Could it get any worse?
I get it, it’s not being tolerable to discuss other people’s personal drug use. Aren’t we a free country after all? But someday we have to have a dialogue about where the line gets drawn between your addiction and putting others in harm’s way.
Don’t the citizens have a right to public safely? Can we continue to let our streets become more dangerous? All the while we’re footing the bill to the tune of 100’s of millions per year for new programs, only to see the problem get even worse.
Yes, despite double the government spending in 2022, federal data shows a 22% increase in homelessness since the pandemic.
And as if OPB couldn’t be more out of touch, they publish an article on Christmas Eve admitting the spike in homelessness in Portland and praising the Oregon Housing and Community Services’ amazing plan to offer more affordable housing and rental assistance… That’s it, that’s the plan.
Really OPB? Not even one teeny weenie mention of the massive drug problem hitting our streets?
Look, I’m all for affordable housing but when are we ready to admit the programs have failed and these leaders are frankly incompetent. Having said all that, I know many of us are disappointed that Oregonians voted for the same party again this past midterms, but Ted Wheeler seems to be at least trying to have some response.
Three Recent Takeaways
Finally Multnomah county is building a behavioral health treatment center, our first one ever. But is it too little too late?
Ted Wheeler, after losing funding to his big idea of a sanctioned camp for the homeless, is asking the question: Can we put someone in the hospital (involuntarily) if they are a danger to themselves?
We’ve only BEGUN to see the mass exodus of business leaving the city’s core, as many large downtown employers are looking to downsize their real estate footprint.