This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of NECN’s newspaper, Hey Neighbor!
When Right 2 Dream Too opened their doors in 2011 as a respite for people experiencing houselessness in downtown Portland, it came with a lot of publicity, both good and bad. Right in the heart of the city, on the northwest corner of Burnside and Fourth Avenue, it looked to some like yet another tent city.
In reality though, it was different; a self-governing place of rest for all types of people, a safe place to relax with a strong sense of community.
This past summer, Right 2 Dream Too, or R2DToo as it’s come to be called, gained attention again when it moved across the river to a discrete location across from the Moda Center.
Within a stone’s throw of the Yellow Line Max Stop, R2DToo gives shelter to houseless residents who sign up for a place to sleep day or night. Participants must agree to a strict code of conduct that, among other things, bans substance use of all kinds. R2DToo also provides its own security detail.
And while talk of a “tent city” sprouting up in the inner northeast core was met first with some trepidation, the surrounding community has welcomed the new residents as their own.
“It’s pretty easy to look at the situation from the outside and have your opinions but trust me, that will change when you start doing the work,” says Keith Jones, chair of the Resident Committee of the Lloyd District Community Association. He goes on to say that the residents of Right To Dream Too are members of the community just like any other neighbors; they do weekly litter pick-ups in the neighborhood, meet with other community members over spaghetti dinners, and overall share a common interest in making this small corner of the Northeast quadrant a nicer place to live.
Jones hopes to see the model expanded into other parts of Portland, as the perpetual and severe housing crisis continues to push people onto the streets, and neighborhoods grapple with how to accommodate the shift. “The Portland community needs to start having a conversation about what kinds of things we can all do. We can’t push this problem away,” he says.
Tucked away on a hillside facing the river, it’s easy to pass by the Moda Center Transit Center by train or by car and not even notice the Right 2 Dream Too space. And perhaps that’s just as it should be. Like any other neighbor, they blend right in.
R2DToo is an all-volunteer run, 501c3 not-for-profit organization. Donations of sleeping bags, socks, and prepared food are always welcome. You can also donate funds on site, 999 N. Thunderbird Way or here: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=Shyv_dJ0KihfEtbPC9AfRBzz8sS3AkMC4_Li_GtM2UK09LuyvJXUBdpZIvB0KSUjKgZu6G&country.x=US&locale.x=US
by Mischa Webley, NECN Staff Writer