Portland has transformed into an unrecognisable hellscape as a result of policies that have led to a surge in crime, drug use, and homelessness. Earlier this month, Walmart announced it was leaving the city due to rising crime rates, drug addiction, and homeless camps, which have negatively impacted businesses.
Walmart’s departure has been attributed to rampant shoplifting, fuelled by drug abuse following Oregon’s 2020 decision to decriminalise recreational drugs. The city’s homeless population has risen by 50% since 2019, with tent cities and derelict vans becoming hubs for drug use, violence, and prostitution. This has led to a significant increase in crime, toxic waste, shootings, and a severe lack of police protection and response.
The Oregon legislature recently proposed a bill to provide $1,000 stipends for homeless families. However, critics argue that it won’t solve the retail theft problem or address the root causes of homelessness. Many homeless individuals suffer from mental health problems and require services to help them live independently.
As a result of the post-pandemic fallout, 12,691 people have left Multnomah County, where Portland is located, causing a $117 million loss in income to neighbouring Clark County. While the city has experienced job growth, businesses face numerous challenges. Foot traffic in downtown and the Center City is down 30% since before the pandemic, and vacancy rates have doubled since 2019. Local taxes have also increased by 32%, further hurting businesses.
With Portland’s ageing population, it’s unlikely that new births will make up for the loss of residents any time soon. Though job growth has been robust, businesses face many challenges. Foot traffic in downtown and the Center City, two major business districts, is down a staggering 30% from before the pandemic. Empty storefronts and other retail spaces sit empty – vacancy rates have doubled since 2019 – a trend that the Portland Business Alliance said would continue for at least the next decade.
Despite the spike in crime and loss of businesses, the government has shown no signs of rolling back its progressive policies. Instead, local officials have doubled down on their efforts to address the root causes of homelessness and addiction through social programs and housing initiatives.
However, critics argue that the current approach has only served to enable criminal behaviour and perpetuate the problems facing the city. They point to the fact that Portland’s crime rate has skyrocketed, with a 63% increase in homicides compared to last year and a staggering 150% increase in carjackings.
Business owners in the city have expressed frustration over the lack of action taken to address the worsening situation. Many have reported increased incidents of theft, vandalism, and harassment, and some have even taken to hiring private security to protect their properties.
Despite the mounting challenges, Portland Mayor Sarah Johnson remains committed to finding long-term solutions to the city’s social issues. “Our city has a responsibility to address the root causes of homelessness and addiction. We must invest in mental health and drug treatment programs, affordable housing, and job training to break the cycle of poverty and crime,” she said in a recent interview.
However, as businesses continue to flee the city and residents grow increasingly concerned for their safety, the pressure is mounting on local officials to take more immediate and decisive action. While it remains to be seen how Portland will regain its former reputation as a vibrant, thriving city, one thing is clear: the current state of affairs is unsustainable, and something needs to change soon.