Not long ago we were out doing needle exchange in the community and came across a camp that was scheduled for Rapid Response to come sweep. While talking to some of the residents there, we told them that one of the ways that we provide mutual aid is to help defend camps and what little possessions they (and myself included) have from being stolen in a sweep.
I believe it is pretty sad that the people of Rapid Response (in coordination with Central City Concern) can come out and steal all of our belongings and force us to move somewhere else just to do it again once we’ve relocated. I know that I myself would have a hard time keeping a clear conscience if I woke up everyday and went to work stealing everything that all the less fortunate houseless people own. But hey, what I do know maybe these bullies get a kick out of it.
After letting some of the residents of the camp know that we would be more than willing to come do defense for them, we asked them to discuss it amongst themselves and inform those that weren’t there. It took them a coulple days to reach a consensus, but they decided that they would like to give it a shot. After all what’s the worst that could happen? They were already set to have to move so if we did fail they would be right where they started. I was pretty excited since some of my comrades had done defense at Laurelhust Park, but this was going to be my first.
We came back on a Saturday afternoon with a canopy, generator, and grill. We thought it would be cool to cook dinner for anyone that wanted some burgers and beers. So we caught a ride down to the camp with a comrade who volunteered to let us throw all our gear into the back of their truck. Once we unloaded and set up I got to grilling. I think I cooked up 20 burgers that night and got a chance to get to know some of the people there a little better. I’m not much of a cook, but I really enjoyed having the opportunity to provide a meal for some of my new friends.
On Sunday some more comrades came down and we had another BBQ. And talked about what we could expect the next day when Rapid Response was scheduled to come steal everyone’s possessions. There were quite a few people living there who had decided that they would like to stand with us, and we all went to bed that night wondering what would happen in the morning.
The next day when Rapid Response showed up, they immediately turned around and left. I guess they didn’t want to deal with some possible resistance. Why would they? It’s easier to just go to the next stop on their list to steal and trash the belongings of people who aren’t prepared to fight back. It’s my hope that when more people start to realize that we can do something about these attacks by CCC and Rapid Response that more people will stand up to them. It would be an amazing thing if us houseless folks could all work together and fight back because we can win.
On Tuesday the battle for Crossroads Camp was complete. We won! Rapid Response made a deal to let everyone stay where they were for at least another 30 days. That’s exactly how it started at Laurelhust and they are still there. It’s my hope that these people here will be able to continue living where they are for the foreseeable future. It was a good time to have the chance to give back to my fellow houseless friends. Doing mutual aid is something that I really enjoy.
If you would have asked me a few months ago what I would have been doing right now this is something that I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years. Before coming into this collective I was housed, miserable, and depressed. My future was looking bleak as I was very unhappy with my living situation, and working a dead end job till the day I die was also not an appealing way to live either. I owe my friend Bernard a great deal of thanks for inviting me to come check out what was going on here, and to allow me to move in to camp with them.
This whole experience has been a huge 360 in the way I view the world. I have been houseless on and off for a good portion of my adult life, but have always mostly stayed to myself. The only person I really cared about was myself. Here I have found a sense of love and community that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. I have also realized that I truly enjoy doing mutual aid. Which is another radical idea that I had never even heard of before. Who would have guessed that people do things for others simply because it’s the right thing to do? Being able to give back is something that I have never done before and it is what I really enjoy the most since joining PDXHRC. It has given me a purpose to life, and I’m grateful for everyone that I have met out here. This experience so far has helped me to open up, to meet new people, make new friends, and discover things about myself I would never known if not for the Portland Houseless Radicals Collective. So I just want to let everyone in our collective and those of you who support us just how much I appreciate you all. I can’t wait for more opportunities to help those of us who need it most, my fellow houseless people.