We Could Stop Policing Homelessness and Start Helping

The "Hygiene Hub" in Portland was the result of conversations with people experiencing homelessness who are now paid to help run the service.

Welcome to the Hygiene Hub in Portland's Central East Side. (Photo courtesy Hygiene4All)

Many business districts hire security to “solve” homelessness. But a group of Portland advocates argues less money should be spent on security and more on an idea for helping: a hygiene hub, which anyone can visit to get cleaned up, throw out trash or even just use the bathroom.

In this episode of the podcast, Next City Executive Director Lucas Grindley talks with Sandra Comstock about opening the hub on city land underneath a bridge in Portland’s Central East Side, and offering bathrooms, laundry service and more despite not having access to running water or electricity.

Comstock says that, among its benefits, the Hygiene Hub is an “informal way for people to ease into getting the help they need without having to fill out a bunch of paperwork and feel the fear of rejection — which is a huge problem for folks because they're rejected so often.” 

Also on this episode, Next City talks with correspondent Emily Nonko, who first reported this story, about what makes this solution uncommon. Faced with a newly formed business improvement district that was spending on added security, these advocates collaborated with people experiencing homelessness and pushed ahead to launch the Hygiene Hub without money from the district. 

Listen to this episode below, or subscribe to Next City’s podcast on Apple and Spotify.

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