I have been living in Portland, Oregon since I was 12. I know the city reasonably well, enjoy it reasonably enough, and, for the most part, like the people that inhabit the city. Do I plan on staying here my whole life? Absolutely not (I’m not cool enough). Does it work for now? Absolutely (but I can pretend like I am). “But Shannon!” some of you are thinking, “why would you move out of the stylish, glorified Portlandia? With all of the adorable boutiques and It-Factor, you should be capitalizing on how automatically trendy you’ve become just by living in Portland! I mean, holy guacamole, MTV moved The Real World there. That’s how you know you’ve made it.”
Know what? That’s exactly why I’m growing increasingly exhausted of the city. Living in SE and having seen some of the less than ideal conditions Portland has to offer has made me furious that shows like Portlandia and The Real World: Portland are painting an idyllic, picturesque, broad-stroked city made up of kitsch, coffee, and hipsters, without actually showing all of Portland, which results in trendy people flocking to the city just to get a rude-ass awakening when they realize that life in Portland is not comprised of working 10 hours a week at a coffee joint that lets you smoke joints while you enjoy your java.
Sure, TV may be in love with Portland, but here are four things that those shows aren’t showing you about this hipster Mecca.
1) The Massive Homeless Population
Portland is a very temperate city, which makes it a really good choice for homeless people. It doesn’t get too warm or too cold throughout the year, so sleeping outside isn’t particularly life threatening (unless scroll down to thing number three). How many vagrants are in Portland? The estimated count for the homeless population per night between October 2010 and October 2011 is about 4,100, as documented by Portland’s Homeless Management Information System (.pdf). That number already seems high and then you realize that they only have a rough head count of individuals in emergency, supportive, or transitional housing/shelters; there is an ambiguous amount of people left uncounted.
2) Unemployment and Poverty Rates
Upwards of 8.4% of Oregon is unemployed and as of January 2013, 7.9% of Portlanders are unemployed. How do you like those statistics? Unless you’re a trust fund child, you shouldn’t. Because they suck. “Shannon, but don’t you see? That’s not in the double-digits, so it’s livable.” Sure, but then you need to consider these statistics from the U.S. Census: 16.8% of Portland live below poverty level, compared to the national average of 14.8%. Still not convinced that Portland doesn’t have an issue with money? Fine, let’s think of the children. In the David Douglas School District 10.2% of all students get reduced lunch – before you get huffy about how that’s pretty good, keep reading – 80.3% of all DDHS students get a free lunch (.pdf) every day, for the whole academic school year.
3) Gang Violence in Portland
I’m not about to compare Oregon gang violence to Detroit, L.A., or Washington D.C. gang violence, but it is still a pretty large part of inner-city Portland life. However questionable the credibility of a site titled Northwest Gangs is, they “estimate the Portland-Gresham area has slightly over 100 gangs operating with membership near 2,000.” The scariest part is, this violence isn’t even related to the violence between Duck and Beaver fans.
4) The Amount of Rainfall
I will bet my box of dill Triscuits that The Real World: Portland will inaccurately portray Portland weather. They want beauty, they want what the city looks like during the one month of allotted sunshine all the time. They want glittering city skyscrapers and the park blocks to have that healthy dewy green shining in the sunlight at midday. I guarantee that on the days that it’s sunny when they were filming they loaded up on stock footage of people walking in the sun, frolicking in the rare non-rain, and enjoying life in the summer months. What they will not show is this color scheme of Portland during the majority of the year:
Ah, Portland sunshine.
Forget about all that, though. Portlandia is waiting in your Netflix queue and The Real World: Portland premieres tonight. Knock your socks off.