With the help of Operation Nightwatch, I am privileged to be able to spend time with homeless people in the Portland area. One of my personal goals is to understand more about life on the streets, why people end up on the street and what is their life like. As you can imagine it is a very tough life and as in any endeavor I am finding necessity is the mother of innovation.
When visiting the mobile hospitality center in South East Portland, I spent time chatting to a gentleman called Al. He has been on and off the streets over recent years and we talked about his life and what was involved to stay alive. I was surprised we he told me he had a bike and it was close to his most important personal possession. I didn’t know what to expect and when he showed me his bike, I was impressed, it is a really great bike.
At this point you may, like me, be wondering why would a homeless person who is living day to day have a bike? As Al explained more about his daily routine, the reality hit me; a bike gives you freedom to essentially travel all over the city to take advantage of the support available. The bigger the area you can visit, the more services you can take advantage of. Riding a bike is also free.
During my second visit to the mobile hospitality center I noticed most people with their bikes and not just any plain old bike, many have added trailers. These could be recycled baby carriers or pretty much any box like object attached to an axle. With this you have your own mobile home of sorts. I also sensed a high level of pride in each of their bikes, they looked in good shape. When you don’t have much you look after what you have.
One organization recognizing the value of bikes in our community and providing support is the Community Cycling Center.
It seems with each week you’re getting more involved and gaining a deeper view of the lives these people live. There is a special feeling you’ve captured in th relationship between these men and their bikes. I like it.