Fear, rumors permeate Portland homeless camps and shelters
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Portland's houseless communities are grappling with uncertainty and misinformation on many fronts.
Street Roots asked people living at Portland area homeless shelters and camps how their communities are processing the spread of COVID-19.
Some are wary of contracting the virus, but many fear the pandemic might be used to further criminalize their existence.
Racheal Dulaney, a 32-year-old woman who's been living at Right 2 Dream Too, worries that, under Gov. Kate Brown's stay-home order issued Monday, she could be arrested for huddling with other people at night to stay warm or for accepting a hug from her brother.
While Brown's order offered little guidance or clarity for people experiencing homelessness and those that serve them, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler stated during a press conference Tuesday that the order also applies to people who are houseless.
"There are a lot of rumors about martial law and social distancing," said DJ Husar, when asked how people at Portland Rescue Mission, where he is staying, are reacting to the pandemic.
Dulaney echoed this rumor. "People are really afraid that there will be martial law and everyone will be rounded up," she said.
Several people said rumors are that President Donald Trump will use the pandemic as an excuse to arrest all homeless people.
There are also widespread conspiracy theories speculating that COVID-19 is a hoax, an idea that's gained popularity because many people experiencing homelessness are observing that no one they know has contracted the illness.
"If this is such a concern, where are all the sick people?" asked DWD, a 48-year-old man who sleeps outside on the sidewalks in Portland's Pearl District. "Most people think it's pretty (expletive) ridiculous at this point," he said of Oregon's social distancing measures.
"There is concern that it might be a government thing," he said. "Conspiracy theorists — there are those that think it has to do with government running exercises."
This Street Roots news story was shared as part of a local media project to provide coverage of the COVID-19 virus.
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