Nowhere to live in the livable city

Last fall, I helped plan the Mitsui Financial Group tour. During this process, I came to appreciate the challenges in trying to get a group of visitors from point A to point B on schedule via public transit. When developing tour itineraries, we try to account for all the possibilities that we might encounter, from rain to street construction, while looking for opportunities to present "The Portland Story." But no matter how prepared we are – even after a “dry run” of the tour – something always occurs that forces you to think on your feet.

Our first morning meeting was at Metro’s headquarters in NE Portland. Afterwards, we walked to the MAX station with intentions of having lunch neat to the PDC offices. Someone suggested we show our visiting delegates the Brewery Blocks, so our lunch plans switched to dinning in the Pearl District. We made the slight adjustment in transit routes and off we went.

After lunch, I quickly mapped out in my head the best route to lead our group from the Pearl into Old Town where PDC’s offices are located. Along the zig-zagging route, our visitors experienced the familiar sights of this colorful part of the city, including Greenpeace activists, Street Roots vendors, “buskers” and panhandlers – even overflowing shopping carts outside of Sisters of the Road CafĂ©.While we walked to the MAX station after our presentation at PDC, one of the delegates inquired about the amount of homelessness he had witnessed along that afternoon. I had no response to give. I felt as though I had been smiling past an obvious flaw of Portland, neither addressing nor responding to the issue. I realized it was a topic that in my own life I had consciously ignored. Since then, I have taken an active role in informing myself on the city's actions with regard to homelessness, while struggling to make sense of the situation myself. This has been a challenging, yet enlightening experience for me to honestly and authentically observe Portland. 

(Prepared by Meghan Dennison)

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