Cameron Whitten announces victory in hunger strike

From, July 25, 2012

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.

Cameron Whitten + homeless cat

Cameron Whitten + homeless cat

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 Amanda 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 Renaud, Mental Health Association of Portland
  • Jim Flanagan, Overseeing Physician
  • Phiamma Elias, RADIANTFLUXproductions
  • Gardner Mein, PCC Creative Writing Professor

And his list goes on at:

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.

READ – Former Mayoral Candidate Announces Hunger Strike, Portland Mercury May 31, 2012
READ – Hunger Striker Cameron Whitten Accuses Media of Ignoring Him, Portland Mercury, June 6 2012
READ – Cameron Whitten camps, stages hunger strike at Portland City Hall, Oregonian June 10, 2012
READ – How’s Cameron Whitten Doing on His Hunger Strike?, June 11, 2012
READ – Cameron Whitten gets support for hunger strike in solidarity event, June 11, 2012
READ – Hunger Striker Cameron Whitten on Day 19: “I’m Out Here as Long as It Takes”, Portland Mercury, June 20, 2012
READ – Cameron Whitten organizes expected 50 protesters to sleep surrounding City Hall Sunday night, Oregonian July 1, 2012
READ – Homeless advocate Cameron Whitten on hunger strike outside City Hall, Oregonian July 3, 2012 (includes video)
READ – “Apathy and Distraction” A Q&A with Hunger Striker Cameron Whitten, Portland Mercury, July 5, 2012
READ – Cameron Whitten: Why I hunger for housing justice, guest column in the Oregonian, July 24, 2012
READ – Commissioner Nick Fish issues statement commending Cameron Whitten’s hunger strike, July 19, 2012
READ – Portland hunger-striker Cameron Whitten holds rally that attracts audience of 200, Oregonian, July 20, 2012
READ – Scenes from Cameron Whitten’s Epic Rally for Housing Justice, July 23, 2012
READ – Hungry For Justice, Portland Tribune, July 25, 2012
READ – The sideshow outside Portland City Hall, unsigned Oregonian editor’s opinion, July 26, 2012
READ – Homeless summit set as Whitten ends protest, Portland Business Journal, July 27, 2012
SEE – photos of Cameron Whitten’s hunger strike from The Oregonian

—————————- Original Message —————————-
Subject: RE: Revised statement
From: “Ruiz, Amy”
Date: Thu, July 26, 2012 9:17 am
Cc: “Cameron Whitten” “Fritz, Amanda” “Adams, Sam”

Statement from the Portland City Council regarding the Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing

For nearly two months, Cameron Whitten has demonstrated outside City Hall to raise awareness of the plight of people experiencing homelessness in our community. We admire Cameron’s heart, tenacity and smarts. His advocacy reminds us there are always ways to learn more and continuously improve across jurisdictions.

Portland is recognized nationally as a local government innovator in preventing homelessness and providing affordable housing services. Our innovations are under threat with budget cuts to federal, state and local safety net services. And more budget cuts are possible at a time when safety net services are needed most.

We believe new solutions must be focused not only on shelter but also on strengthening all aspects of a person’s life. We know this now better than before: We just completed the Portland Plan — the official 25-year strategic plan for the City of Portland. At its core the Portland Plan focuses us on multi-faceted approaches to prosperity, education, health and equity.

Thus, we accept the constructive challenge offered by Cameron Whitten to renew our efforts to find local housing solutions for those suffering from homelessness. At Cameron’s request, Portland will enthusiastically participate in the proposed Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing to be convened by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

We believe solving our local housing challenges is best accomplished with a stronger regional partnership involving advocates, agencies, non-profit and faith communities, and people experiencing homelessness. After the November elections is an opportune time to take a new look at regional homeless and affordable housing issues, as we welcome newly-elected leaders to the table.

The scope of the Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing should include but is not limited to:

* What is the state of homelessness in our community?
* How are government agencies throughout the region and organizations in the non profit, business, and faith sectors working together to address this crisis?
* How can we strengthen these partnerships?
* How will regional leaders support this work?

In addition to the Summit, the City is engaged in ongoing conversations about the futures of Right 2 Dream 2 and Dignity Village. When the time is right, we believe a future City Council will support a public vote on a new dedicated funding source for affordable housing. We are looking forward to working with Cameron Whitten and others in the region on homeless and housing issues, and we will continue our everyday work to support Portlanders experiencing homelessness.

What: Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing.
Where: TBD
When: Fall 2012
Convener: Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
Participants: Regional Leaders