First Advisor

Federico Perez

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Geology and University Honors




Homelessness -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Homeless persons -- Oregon -- Portland, Homelessness -- Government policy -- Oregon, Poverty -- Oregon -- Portland -- Social conditions, Poor -- Oregon -- Portland -- Social conditions




The issue of homelessness appears to take on a unique complexity in Portland, Oregon. While the rest of the nation tends to criminalize poverty, perpetuating an idea that homelessness is rooted in personal incompetency and moral failings, Portland has repeatedly implemented more lenient policies, allowing the homeless to claim rights and space in public. The city also boasts a long history of compassionate behavior from the community and numerous grass-roots organizations aimed at assisting the homeless. But a critical review of policy documents, historical newspapers, and various pieces of media, indicates that Portland’s patterns of compassion are not as subversive as they may seem. Interpretation of these documents suggests that deeply embedded notions of poverty and homelessness, specifically the social distinctions that consistently place the homeless in a group defined separately from the rest of society, continue to fuel the battle around homelessness. As Portland’s economy continues to grow, along with it will inevitably come a greater demand for a reduction in the city’s visible poverty. If Portland retains its exclusionary social structure, the city’s innovative and progressive policy may not be enough to defeat its homeless crisis.


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