Queers, Bums, and Kids in the City of Roses
Throughout the history of our country it has happened over and over. Development and urbanization come to a small area, city or even an entire region and a new commercial market brings new wealth to a section of people, businesses open up, population increases and everyone is supposedly better off. However, this development and gentrification always seems to alienate a group of society even more than it is already. Portland is a place where that is occurring today, specifically among the queer and homeless communities. However, this does not have to happen; with some changes not only in policy, but in thinking, no one needs to be left behind.
The City of Roses is home to half of Oregon’s citizens as well as one of the economic and cultural centers of the west coast. In the past twenty years the area has grown rapidly due to the shift from lumber and manufacturing to technology. The city has a great reputation, so great that Money magazine named it the most livable city in the country, “Three decades of keen planning have reined in urban sprawl and given rise to a mini-metropolis with short, easy-to-stroll blocks renowned for java joints, brewpubs and bookstores. A superb light rail network and a new streetcar system are helping to make it a cinch to get around. There's loads of culture, from the Portland Art Museum to local rock clubs.” In States of Desire Edmund White gives an amazingly accurate description of the area immediately outside downtown.
Up and up we wound on curving lanes past large, comfortable houses set back from the road, the neighborhood I had dreamed of while I pored over my first-grade reader: safe, suburban, sheltered. At any moment I expected Dick and Jane to race by with Spot, as Father stepped out of his Hudson, a smile on his young face and the evening paper under his arm. (71)
Yes, it is a great place to live, if you are not a part of certain groups. I grew up in all areas of the greater metro area and loved it. I always felt safe, and even though the weather is notoriously horrible it is easily conceded in exchange for the beauty of the region. Amid all this newfound greatness lies a stark contrast. Portland has one of the highest populations of runaway youth in the country.