Erik Sten is tired of panhandlers ("Buddy Can You Spare a Place to Live" 08/08/04).  He agrees with the business leaders that panhandlers make downtown Portland less "attractive" and that the $11 million earmarked for affordable housing is "vital to our downtown economy".   

I don't agree with Mr. Sten's implication that an attractive facade that promotes profit and investment is a driving reason to shuffle "unattractive" people out of sight and mind. Mr. Sten speaks repeatedly of "clearing the streets".  That's a dangerous and loaded phrase that speaks worlds about the class issues lurking under the surface of his commentary.

 The streets are public places that belong to everyone.  They are thriving corridors where people LIVE, not as props for pretty businesses, but as real humans in all their joy and despair. He writes that homeless people must be part of a community in order to get back on their feet. 

 Why, then, is it "obvious that Dignity Village is not the solution"?  The Village is an exciting answer whose time has come.  It is a developing community built not on principles of profit and appearance, but on autonomy, shared struggles, strict rules, safety and healing.  If Portland made a serious (and revolutionary) effort to support the intent of Dignity Village, perhaps Mr. Sten wouldn't have to hear so many troublesome hard luck stories on his way to lunch.

 Given the present state of our society, a dream city where the streets are "clear" is an unrealistic, sterile creation full of strangers dressed in mirrors.