On a sidewalk littered with tarps, bicycles and discarded food containers, one tent sat farther away from the rest. It was clean, with the rain fly removed, showcasing the vacant interior.
“This is an empty tent erected by activists to encourage people to live in tents,” Kevin Dahlgren said.
Dahlgren’s day job is reducing homelessness in the City of Gresham, but he spends most of his free time talking to those who live on the streets of Portland. He often posts videos of his conversations on Twitter, hoping to shed light on the West Coast’s “dysfunctional system” for addressing homelessness.
During his 27 years in social services, Dahlgren said he’s seen a shift from permanent solutions to Band-Aid approaches.
“When you’re not actually helping the permanent solutions, the old homeless stay there and the new homeless come in and everything just grows,” he said.
Oregon has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the nation. An estimated 17,959 people were homeless in the state during the nationwide count last year, 11,000 of whom were unsheltered, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The state — and its largest city — have struggled to reverse the trend.
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