IMAGE: Erin McCallum
Let’s be honest. Whether it’s that smell on the bus or litter at your door, many of us regret at times that Portland can be a homeless magnet.
But when the mercury drops below freezing, you cut the homeless a break because their search for warmth becomes a life-or-death quest. Or you’re Rogue of the Week Margaret O’Hartigan .
Apparently, the decades O’Hartigan has spent as a high-profile advocate for transsexuals haven’t made her sympathetic to everybody. That became clear last week, when a Red Cross warming shelter moved into O’Hartigan’s Northeast Portland neighborhood as temperatures plunged.
The shelter at Calvary Christian Church on Northeast Alberta Street was housing about 70 people a night. Then, O’Hartigan started raising holy hell with the Red Cross and the city about people coming and going at all hours, begging and littering. She even took a bag of trash into Red Cross headquarters, saying it came from shelter residents.
“It kind of goes above and beyond the bounds of normal NIMBY-ism,” says Marshall Runkel, a manager at the city’s Bureau of Housing and Human Development.
Red Cross spokeswoman Lise Harwin says the agency responded by limiting the shelter to 50 guests a night and locking its doors between 11 pm and 6 am.
O’Hartigan wants the Red Cross and the city to take some responsibility, and says she has nothing against the homeless. “Anybody who would characterize this as ‘I don’t want this in my backyard’ is a damn liar,” she says.
But Runkel, who worked with Red Cross to coordinate the shelters, says the consequences of O’Hartigan’s actions are serious. “People would be freezing to death out there.” Runkel says. “It’s no joke.”