Drug House Blues

There was a recent “I Anonymous” in the Portland Mercury, in which a long-time resident was lamenting the (paraphrasing here:) influx of Lululemon-clad, stroller-pushing residents who have slowly nudged out the day drunks and meth-heads that once were more abundant in the neighborhood.

I laughed. I even empathized. And I, too, may have quietly cursed the new wave of residents that are making the neighborhood slightly less edgy. But I also wondered where this person lived, because the tweakers…they’re still here. The scrappers…them, too. And on my street, stretching between Powell and Foster, we have both. And more than one of each.

Sure, this neighborhood is a drastically different place than it was 10 or 15 years ago. But it also hasn’t shed all of its seedier elements (some of which I hope never get shed). And some of those elements—drug houses, people shooting up in the alleyway, the bike-trailer patrollers looking for anything in your yard that can be redeemed at the scrap yard or on the bike black market—still make neighbors uneasy. And if you live in close proximity to one of these hotspots, chances are you may feel unsafe, too.

It is this unease and concern for safety that has prompted an online discussion on Nextdoor.com (registration required; free to signup). The discussion has revolved mostly around a few known drug houses that have recently seen an uptick in police calls, medical emergencies, and property crimes in the vicinity (car prowls, stolen bikes, etc).

After reading through the discussion thread, it became obvious folks are feeling hamstrung. So we thought we’d pose the issue to you, the readers…

Is this something that affects you? Have you experienced the late-night screaming episodes in the middle of the street, stolen property, or random people coming and going next door to get their fix? Does it even bother you? Is it merely part of living in an urban environment, and should we just tolerate it before we’re all priced out and miss the good old days?

We want to hear your thoughts.

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11 Responses to Drug House Blues

  1. JennB says:

    All of the above is my experience…I have learned to not leave anything out I don’t want, and to lock down anything that can walk away. As I lay in bed listening to the screaming at 2am, I wonder if the gal needs some police help, should I call? And that guy that looked dead passed out in my neighbor’s yard yesterday, I am mildly ashamed to say I didn’t notice him laying there until the popo showed up. But even as I lament the reality of our hood, I remember having a thought of relief yesterday, as I drove to Hawthorne, passing all the development on Division. Relief at having a place outside of the craziness closer in, a hood that is full of color and entertainment (guy sitting in the middle of Powell & 82nd during rush hour traffic?). And I wouldn’t trade FoPo for anywhere else! And those LuluLemon wearing moms pushing the strollers still bring their kids by to say hello to my dinosaur. FoPo welcomes everyone!

  2. E says:

    Disclaimer – I’m in Mt.Scott/Arleta. We had our share of it; when we were doing some construction we had a Honey Bucket near the sidewalk for the work crew and we always got a report on what exciting new items were found on the floor in the morning. We had to kick people out of it a few times; I sympathized with the folks who just wanted to take their morning dump but the people who left crack pipes, needles, or used condoms were not exactly welcomed by me.

    There were a few multi-family units on the block who were owned by someone who wasn’t in good health (so the rumors go) and the cops were frequently doing business there. A dealer was living at that property, as deduced by the parade of characters parking down the block (to be discrete? how absurd) and walking by, daily.

    Those properties were sold to people who evicted everyone and fixed them up, and the whole street got much quieter. It’s been a few years since that guy got stabbed on the street behind the house, and I haven’t heard of any recent murders, so I would guess that in the recent sense, things have “improved”, at least on my block. Further proof of this would be the metal appliance I put out Friday for scrappers – it didn’t budge all weekend.

    The disabled motorhomes that usually occupy the street haven’t been seen in a while, nor have I seen the guy who was living in his truck. He didn’t bother me until he puked on the sidewalk after a bender. A forgivable offense, even.

    I guess I don’t get bothered by anyone unless they are actively disrespecting the neighborhood, people’s property, or people’s safety. I wish for everyone to get help and shake their problems, but don’t feel prepared to do anything personally about all the social problems we’ve got.

  3. aaroninis says:

    Here on SE Schiller we have some questionable (at best) activity in the apartments just east of 52nd.

  4. “Questionable (at best)…”

    Good way to put it.

  5. dancinmikeb says:

    Step one: lock up your goddamn bike as best you can.

  6. Kaye says:

    We’re in Mt Scott-Arleta. Our street is relatively quiet most of the time, except for people racing down it on their way somewhere. I’d love to put speed bumps in. That being said, there is definitely some unsavory foot traffic on the street, enough to make sure we don’t leave anything out front if we’d like to keep it. The gates to the backyard are always locked unless we are actively outside working. We don’t have packages delivered to the house anymore after having something stolen off the front porch in broad daylight. There are several multi-unit rental properties on the street, they’re mostly quiet, and they’d damn well better stay that way. I’m cool with hippies and tokers and eccentrics. The pickers (scavengers?) don’t bother me one little bit, so long as they don’t make a mess, and don’t come onto the property – once the bins are out on the sidewalk, they are welcome to harvest anything that they can use. But thieves, meth heads, drunks, and gangsters? I have no love, and the faster they go away, the better.

  7. Bonnie says:

    I grew up in this neighborhood am a homeowner as well in the Lents area, I cannot imagine being any where else. I love all the bars/restaurants/local businesses and people, they are all very welcoming.. If strange looking or acting people bother you are scare you in any way, maybe move to the suburbs (please move if your a cry baby) because I would not have it any other way!!! I am a city girl and would think any where else other than SE Portland, would be a boring place to live.

  8. Bonnie,

    Most people love the neighborhood for the same reasons you list. I don’t think this is a matter of folks being scared by people who look strange. Rather, people are feeling unsettled and unsafe due to an increase in car and home break-ins; people acting unsafely and unpredictably because they just scored their fix and tweaking in the middle of the street, OR are freaking out because they couldn’t score their fix at the local drug house; drug-induced, late-night screaming fests in the middle of the street, and said screamers knocking on peoples’ doors in the wee hours of the morning; needles in the alleyway and park.

    Living somewhere else would indeed be boring, but we can keep the edge and character in the neighborhood without accepting and tolerating certain elements. I can’t help but sympathize with the folks who are having a tough time with this issue, especially if they have kids.

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