If there is a place to make a stand and force the issue that people with no place to go have a right to occupy an unused public space, this is the place to do it. It’s 30 acres of forest.
If enough people come out here and stand with us, we’d not just be saving our home, but also opening a place for anyone else who needs a place to live. We have a small kitchen, and chemical toilets. A community campsite for anyone who needs it.
To get here, from SE Division turn south on SE 103rd then follow the road until it ends at a closed gate. Hike in from there, or cut the fucking lock off replace it with your own and drive, your choice. Please come out here and help us, not for us but for anyone who needs a safe place to be. The city won’t provide it, but we can do it ourselves. If we hold this place, they won’t have a choice.
Aside from Kelly Butte being a largely unused but spacious patch of high-altitude land next to a major highway, with a camp that generally can't be seen or heard from any residential neighborhood in the area, there are many other aspects to the place that make it an ideal location -- really the Alcatraz of Oregon. (This month, folk punk icon Jane Reynolds and I put out a song about this history as well, called "Kelly Butte.")
To summarize briefly, Kelly Butte was named after the wealthy "pioneer," Clinton Kelly, after whom Clinton Street and many other places around here are named. The land was given to Clinton Kelly for free, literally for no other reason than that he was a white man who got here at the right time, and wanted land. He got lots of it. Then he sold it -- as always, at a huge profit -- to the city in 1906, so they could set up a rock quarry there, to split rocks for the purposes of paving the city, which now needed to be paved, to make way for the automobile. The city decided that the way they would find workers to split the rocks and pave the city was by kidnapping indigent people off the streets and sentencing them to this particular form of back-breaking labor. From 1906 until the 1950's, this is how the city of Portland was paved.
The very name, "Kelly Butte," used to strike fear in the hearts of the struggling "gig economy" workers of the day -- the majority of the workers of the time, to be clear, as we would call them today. This was where you were sent when you were too poor to pay the rent. Sent to work, sent to die. All the people living on the streets of this horrifically gentrified and divided city may as well be the descendants of those sentenced to split the rocks at Kelly Butte.
What has actually changed since then? Now, people are not sent to poor houses to work in quarries, they are sent to prison. More than half of all arrests made in this and many other cities are of houseless people. Arrested for existing.
If the authorities are interested in real justice, it could begin with the Red Cross building and maintaining public toilets, showers, kitchens, and shelters in every park in this city. This is not a matter of opinion, but is in fact what would be done if this crisis were actually being treated like a crisis. Not just here, but anywhere in the world where crises occur.
The very least they could do, if they're not going to step up to the plate and do that, is allow the people to help themselves.
If this indeed is journalism, it is journalism of the advocacy kind: come to Kelly Butte. Join your houseless neighbors. Bring all the things that are needed to build a sustainable community. I'm not going to try to list them here, for they are too numerous. And if the authorities try to destroy the community -- as they will likely try to do, or succeed in doing, perhaps repeatedly -- come back. If this madness is ever going to change, it's not going to happen by itself.