Commemorating the birthday of social critic and award-winning author Aldous Huxley, Portland activist Cameron Whitten has declared a determined end date for his Hunger Strike at City Hall. The 24/7 camping demonstration was launched on June 2nd, and has been fairly reminiscent of last Fall’s Occupation of Downtown Public Squares. After 55 Days, Whitten’s weight has dropped to 159 of an initial 193.7 pounds: shedding 34.7 pounds in total.
Whitten, a former Mayoral Candidate, student, and active volunteer, said he felt the exponentially growing housing crisis was not receiving enough visibility, “There are less safe places for Portlanders to sleep, which contributes to crime, mental health issues, lower quality of living, and death.”
The statistics of homelessness in Multnomah County are staggering.
2,727 people are experiencing homelessness
1,928 are sleeping in transitional housing
35% are unsheltered families with children
46% are people of color
12% are U.S. military veterans
Total 4,655 people as identified by the Portland/Multnomah County “Point-In Time Study,” 2011
Whitten launched his campaign with three resolutions: petitioning Bureau of Development Services to waive fines levied on the property owners of lot 323, where Right 2 Dream Too shelters over 80 houseless individuals per night without governmental aid, for County Sheriff to issue a one-year moratorium on foreclosure evictions for homeowners, and for City Council to add a housing levy measure to the November 2012 General Election ballot.
Many City Officials, including the Mayor, had conversations with Whitten during the 55 Day protest. Although they acknowledged the merit of the requests, each was denied as an immediate course of action. Tensions came to a boil when Whitten, surrounded by supporters at his 30 Day rally, announced he was switching to a more dangerous water-only fast, prompting a few City Commissioners to cease communications with him, save for Commissioner Fritz, who spent time outside the campaign trail to check his health and exchange ideas. He continued to organize within the community and build public support, gaining the attention of both Mayoral Candidates, Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales. For weeks, local media was in the air about how the end game would turn out.
Tuesday Morning, Whitten tweeted that he was returning to the liquid diet he had adopted in the first 30 days of his protest, which was retweeted by Mayor Adams and received strong approval from supporters. Both parties were nothing more than ambiguous about claims of a negotiation being hammered out.
One of his most active, and inspired supporters has been Kate Lore of First Unitarian Church, which Whitten attends. “…I am profoundly moved by all that Cameron has managed to do…As a result, he brought together a powerful coalition of government, faith, and community leaders to collaboratively address this crisis. I am so impressed by his passion for justice and his resolve to make a difference.”
Whitten notes a number of groundbreaking victories for Housing Justice have occurred over the past 55 Days:
Renewed visibility to the housing crisis, promotion of “Housing First” policy.
Located services for various houseless individuals.
July 1 Slumber Party, where over 70 housing advocates slept outside City Hall.
July 20 Rally at Terry Schrunk Park, with over 200 attendees.
Initiation of legal procedures on behalf of Right 2 Dream Too.
New Dialogue on Housing Reform, such as Steve Novick’s Eminent Domain proposal (which Whitten promoted during his Primary campaign).
Public Letter from Mayor Sam Adams, announcing an Annual Regional Housing Summit, TBA.
Over the weeks, he has been visited by hundreds of well-wishers, provided interviews and background information to a diversity of news outlets, and attended classes at Portland Community College, Cascade Campus. When asked what his favorite experience over his 8 week journey was, he wittingly responded, “Not starving to death.”
Whitten states that he couldn’t have made this much progress on the Hunger Strike by himself. He gives credits and many thanks to supporters in a long list, including:
Israel Bayer, Street Roots
Amy Ruiz, Office of Mayor Sam Adams
Ibrahim Mubarak and Mark Kramer, R2D2 Advocates
Mayoral Candidates Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales,
Commissioner Amanada Fritz,
Midge Purcell, Urban League of Portland
Billy Scheibner, Co-Striker
Jobs With Justice, KBOO, KGW News, PQ Monthly, and the Portland Mercury
Kate Lore, First Unitarian Church of Portland
Jason Renauld, Mental Health Association
Jim Flanagan, Overseeing Physician
Phiamma Elias, RADIANTFLUXproductions
Gardner Mein, PCC Creative Writing Professor
And his list goes on at: http://www.cameronwhitten.com/honors-and-thanks/
Whitten is planning an open Press Conference to declare his victory, on the steps of City Hall. Thursday, July 26th at 10AM, supporters will be able to observe him scarf down his first item of solid food in the past 55 Days. He hasn’t clued anyone in on what it will be, but you can be sure it will be vegan.
For more information, visit: www.cameronwhitten.com