In the mid-1980s the most dire problem on the streets of Portland (from the point of view of the downtown business community which funded the campaigns of elected persons at city hall and at the county commission) was public inebriates. These were mostly white working class male late-stage inebriates who lived in dozens of cheap hotels, worked day labor on local farms, drank fortified wines like Night Train, Thunderbird, or MD 40/40, and then might pass out, sometimes on the street. There was some heroin on skid road at the time – not much by comparison to today; some trade in pills, but no cocaine, no methamphetamine. But alcohol was always cheap and easy to access.
From the 1940s there were several punitive efforts by the state, county and the city to address public inebriates – all of which failed largely because none of them addressed alcoholism and the source of the problem. As the medical world began to map alcoholism as a curable treatable illness with a primary goal of abstinence, policies became more coherent. This took a long time because of social ignorance, fad and psychogenic treatments, and the persuasion of the alcohol industry to deregulate and normalize.
Until the mid-1970s it was illegal to be drunk on the streets of Portland. Inebriates were not taken to jail but to a set of gang cells at the police station – then on 3rd and Oak Street. There was a large cell which could hold forty or fifty men at one time, and during Rose Festival it often did. There was a separate, smaller adjoining cell for women. Most of these people would be convicted in the morning of public drunkenness which had a fine and potential jail time.
Downtown in the 1970s it was not uncommon to see unconscious or extremely drunk men pretty much everywhere you looked. They littered the streets. In doorways, in lavatories, in public buildings, or laying on the sidewalk. No tents, no structures, no camps – police did not allow that. There was no public housing program downtown for people under 65 years old. The shelter housing was at the Portland Rescue Mission and Salvation Army Harborlight, but you had to demonstrate you were a Christian and they did not allow youth, people who did not speak English, homosexuals, people who had hallucinations, or most people of color. The only non-religious shelter was a concrete floor at Baloney Joe’s, located on the East side of the Burnside Bridge.The County only got interested in providing shelter when Federal HUD funds became available. The publicly-funded shelters – such as the Burnside Drop-In Center (which became Transition Projects) and later program housing though the Housing Authority or Central City Concern – did not discriminate by race, religion, creed, or sexual identity – which was a huge improvement. But as commercial real estate values increased in the 1980s and 1990s, single room occupancy buildings, also called residential hotels where someone could pay cash for a room, were bought by private speculators and public agencies and converted to other uses. This urban renewal displaced thousands of people who had nowhere else to go. Some became permanently homeless, and new late-stage working class alcoholics and addicts had few options. Because the number of people who are alcoholic, or who become addicted has not been reduced – the number of chronically homeless people has skyrocketed in Portland in the past twenty years.
The goal of this urban renewal was to convince alcoholics and addicts to accept detoxification and outpatient treatment for their addiction with the additional lure of free temporary housing. This strategy was extremely successful when all the components were in place. At one point, the continuum for heroin addicts of Hooper subacute to Estate Alcohol and Drug Free Community, with outpatient treatment at the Portland Acupuncture Addictions Center, with one-on-one peer monitoring though the Central City Concern Mentor Project had a 90 day program adherence success rate of 85% – perhaps the best rate ever recorded for public addiction treatment.
The single room occupancy hotels were mostly built from 1890-1917 for those men working in warehouses and on the docks, and for sailors who came and went. The first World War of 1917-1918 upended this economic boom and sent many of our sailors overseas. Sixty-some years later the labor-intensive merchant marine industry was gone, but the SRO buildings and their retail level taverns and bars remained.
Some of the cheap cash-only residential hotels standing in the 1980s ~
Abbey – converted to condos
Ace – now a youth respite shelter
Admiral – converted to apartments
Adrian – torn down, now a parking lot
Albany – torn down, now office building
American – torn down in the 1970s, now a parking lot
Arlington / Westwind – being converted to program housing
Arthur – converted to apartments
Beaver / Medford – program housing
Biltmore – now public housing
Bridgeport – torn down for condos
Broadway / Swindells – program housing
Butte – now public housing
Clyde / Ace – converted into tourist hotel
Cornelius – converted to condos
Danmore – torn down for parking lot
Drake – burned and torn down
Earle / Athens / Sally McCracken – program housing
Eastern – converted to offices
Esquire – converted to tourist hotel
Estate – program housing
Everett – converted to condos
Fairfield – now public housing
Foster / Muslof – senior program housing
Golden West – program housing
Governor / Sentinel – converted into tourist hotel
Grant – converted to Portland Rescue Mission in 1963
Hamilton – torn down, Justice Center is there now
Heathman – converted to upscale hotel
Home – still cash-only, should be condemned
Hoyt – torn down – vacant lot
President / Jack London / Century Plaza / Alder – program housing
Jefferson – torn down for condos
Joyce – unoccupied since 2016
Kent / Georgia – still cash-only
Lennox – torn down for condos
Lincoln – converted to offices
Lotus – torn down – vacant lot
Lownsdale – torn down, Justice Center is there now
Maxwell Hall – still cash-only
Merchant – converted to offices
Morrison – exists – unoccupied
New Palace – exists – unoccupied
New Ritz – burned down, good riddance
Park Heathman – converted to apartments
Philips / Grove – converted into tourist hotel
Rich / Modern Rich – converted to apartments
Roosevelt – converted to condos
Royal Palm – exists – unoccupied
Shoreline – program housing
St. Francis – torn down for program housing
Stewart – closed – to be torn down
Taft – senior program housing
Villa Rooms – exists – unoccupied
Western Rooming House – converted to apartments
York – exists – unoccupied
Here’s a 30 minute documentary about life on skid road in the 1980s and the illegally-run hotels for people with mental illness.
In about 1985 Don Clark, the visionary executive director of the Burnside Consortium, which later became Central City Concern, secured a multi-year Federal grant to create the Public Inebriate Program – or PIP. The purpose of the PIP – and there were many PIPs around the country – was to divert inebriates from the criminal justice system. The PIP in Portland had two parts – the first was to fund CHIERS – an acronym for the Central City Concern Hooper Inebriate Emergency Response Service. The CHIERS wagons, staffed by Emergency Medical Technicians, would cruise downtown, pick up inebriates, and take them to Hooper to sleep it off. This was seen as a major improvement from police cruising around, picking up inebriates, and taking them to the drunk tank.
The second part of PIP in Portland was funding for treatment agencies to rent a set of hotel rooms for men who while at Hooper agreed to enter inpatient or outpatient treatment for alcoholism – or addiction. There were first just four or five rooms at the Rich Hotel, and later, in about 1990, the program moved to the fourth floor of the Estate Hotel – 54 rooms. These rooms were seen by outpatient agencies and the county as a stabilizing influence and improved treatment outcomes, and so those agencies lobbied for access to those rooms by their clients. An agreement was brokered by Richard Harris – the second winner of the HADIN Award – between several agencies. The agreement – the HADIN Directors Agreement – gave access to the rooms within several conditions.
- The agency directors met annually
- All clients were referred to the Alcohol and Drug-Free Community (ADFC) at the Estate Hotel by social workers at the Hooper sub-acute facility
- All clients signed a release at Hooper allowing the HADIN agencies to share medical information – the HADIN release
- Representatives of each agency met weekly to discuss clients in common and share resources. This weekly meeting was called the Homeless Alcohol and Drug Intervention Network.
- Clients remained in services and clean and sober to stay at the ADFC Estate – and would be discharged from the ADFC by CCC staff if they left services or used alcohol or drugs
- The county mental health and addictions office would managed the HADIN agreement and broker disputes between agencies
Later the Alcohol and Drug Free Community law was written by CCC staff, passed into law, and tested in court.
The official agencies which signed the initial HADIN agreement were the Native American Rehabilitation Center Northwest, Transition Projects, DePaul Treatment Center, the Veterans Administration Chemical Addiction Rehabilitation Section, Portland Acupuncture Addictions Center, and Project for Community Recovery. Recognizing the institutional racism inherent in county bureaucracy, agencies which had a handshake agreement with the Estate included Stay Clean and the Chicano Concilio. From 1990 – 2004, Alyce Dingler – who was the first person in open recovery from alcoholism employed by the County – managed the HADIN agreement.
Participants in HADIN 1992-1995 included Susan Snyder and Jeannie Rivers of Hooper Detox, Sandra Chisholm and Sam Esparza of the County tuberculosis clinic, Fred Bennett and Marty George of Project for Community Recovery, John Mackey of the Native American Rehabilitation Center Northwest, Misty Kiyuna of the VA CARS program, Mike Warn and Don Callender of the VA social work program, Talley Cox of Mental Health Services West, Mary Buckley of Transition Projects, Ramon Olguin and Ken Brewster of Portland Acupuncture Addictions Center, Doug Zitek, Eric Ericsen, John Kahnert, and Jason Renaud of Central City Concern, and Susan Isom and Leslie Rupp of the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center.
The HADIN Award was begun in 1995 by Sandra Chisholm and Marty George of Project for Community Recovery to recognize the lifetime achievement of a direct care worker for homeless Portlanders with alcoholism or addiction. The award was originally a baseball trophy with the awardee’s name written on masking tape. The first person to receive the HADIN Award was Luis Polanco. From his 2006 obituary, “Luis proudly led a life of sobriety for over 45 years and transformed that into a career of helping others find peace from drug and alcohol addiction. After arriving in Portland in 1970, Luis was instrumental in the creation of several addiction recovery programs including Alcoholic Counseling and Recovery Program (ACRP), NARA NW, Harmony House and the Oregon Chicano Concilio. He was presented with numerous state and national awards for his tireless dedication to the Hispanic & Native American communities, including receiving the HADIN Award for his work with the homeless.”
HADIN Chair – 1992-1995