Under the Bridges

UPDATED on January 22, 2013

Right 2 Survive  leads our Under the Bridge walks on the first and third Tuesdays of the month from 6:30pm until ?  Everyone is invited.  Please dress according to the weather.  Things like socks, scarves, hats or any other gear you can carry with you to share are welcome.

Meet at the Right 2 Dream Too rest area on 4th and NW Burnside at 6pm.   Come one, come all, we are going to have a ball, talking with people and hearing the things that they go through while living on the streets, under the bridges and in the bushes.  Police do sweeps of our houseless friends that sleep outside, so we will also be informing them of their rights. If you want to learn more contact Ibrahim Mubarak on FB.


Here’s an article from June 2012 that gives more background.

It’s a Portland that many of us may not see.

A city whose landmarks are those in-between spaces that people who live inside don’t always notice: the gaps between chain link fences and massive bridge supports, clearings under scrubby bushes that line the freeway. Dumpsters which are a reliable source of carpet scraps, broken but usable chairs, or food.

It’s an exercise in perception. Take boulders newly installed to cover a river bank. Some see them as a landscape improvement. People living outside mourn the loss of one more comfortable sleeping space.

The first and third Tuesday of every month, Ibrahim Mubarak leads Under the Bridges walks. They are a way for him to reach out to or reconnect with people living on the streets and a way for “housed folks” to get a sense of some of the challenges of lives spent outside.

Mubarak, who spent many years living outside in Portland, is a co-founder of Dignity Village. Now living inside, he was instrumental in setting up, last October, the Right 2 Dream Too camp — or  “rest area,” as he calls it — at the corner of West Burnside and Fourth Avenue. Many Right 2 Dream Too members go on the Tuesday walks.

Their settlement is a project of Mubarak’s umbrella organization, Right 2 Survive, an advocacy group whose goals include, ”empowering the un-sheltered … and facilitating creative use of under-utilized private spaces and resources for the purpose of getting people off the streets.”

Rebecca Koffman/ Special to the Oregonian
Ibrahim Mubarak (left), his wife, Lisa Fay, and PSU student Michael Steen, who is interning at Right 2 Dream Too, stand at the corner of a vacant lot at Salmon Street and Southeast Water Avenue. Mubarak has spent years trying to persuade the City Council to provide the space for a tent city.

It’s unlikely that he penned this primly phrased mission statement. At last Tuesday’s walk over the Burnside Bridge and south along the Eastbank Esplanade, Mubarak, a convert to Islam, told pithy stories in the incantatory rhythms of a street preacher.

The time that he encountered a raccoon in a dumpster — “the raccoon won.” The nights he spent outside Montage restaurant, charging patrons to snap pictures of him and his pet white rabbit, which he “dressed like Santa Claus or a pumpkin,” depending on the season. “They were real houseless-friendly. I ate ground alligator one time. They cook good in there.”

A recurring theme — the injustice of criminalizing homelessness. They call it “sidewalk management” now, he says, disgust in his voice. “Not supposed to be more than four of you anywhere.” He points to an awning, “In the pouring rain, what houseless person in his right mind, is going to say, ‘You can’t come in here with us.’ ”

He knows many, many people.  As he walks past the line of folks lined up outside Portland Rescue Mission, Mubarak greets most of them by name, exchanges hugs and handshakes. “How ya doing? How’s the police treating you? They been doing sweeps?”

It’s a question that he asks of all the people along the route. He maintains that during the Rose Festival the police sweep people out more diligently. A young man jammed against a concrete pillar, where the noise from the freeway is deafening, says he hasn’t seen the police. His eyes are bewildered behind his glasses, but he smiles at the group, reads their flier inviting him to this weekend’s Pitch A Tent at the Rose Parade event. Mubarak presses his hand warmly in parting.

Farther along where Main Street meets the river, there are several shopping carts, and beds, many of them covered by tarps.

A couple sit together on a concrete tree-surround. They know Mubarak well. “Yes,” says the red-haired woman, who is rolling a cigarette, “the police have been by. Loudmouth and Cornfed were here,” she says, referring to the policemen by their nicknames. “They pulled D.J and Chuck’s houses open.”

She and her male partner tell the Right 2 Dream Too member that other outside sleepers who have been displaced by the carnival “are moving over here.”

Two men a little distance away are using a bench as their kitchen. One of them carefully pours steaming fat from a frying pan into a sawed-off PBR can. His hands shake alarmingly. Mubarak introduces himself, invites the men to his event, asks how things are going and “What’s for dinner?” Bacon and French toast, says the cook. He proffers a brown bag full of crispy bacon bits.

Rebecca Koffman/ Special to the Oregonian
Edward Lloyd, who sleeps outside, says he tries to stay neat so police won’t have a reason to approach him. “I’m a human being,” he says. “I should be treated like a human being.”

“I don’t eat pork,” says Mubarak, smiling. The man thinks about this. He punches his forehead repeatedly as if to spur an idea. “Do you have a CD player?” he asks Mubarak.

“At home,” is the answer.

“Then I’d like to give you a CD,” he says.

He searches through bags until he finds a Bob Marley CD. “It’s new,” he tells Mubarak.

“I love you,” Mubarak tells him as the group moves on.

Edward Lloyd is standing not far away near his bed. It is covered with a tarp – the corners military sharp. “We keep our area clean,” he says, “so that they won’t bother us,” meaning the police.

“Besides,” he adds, “I’m pretty stubborn. They can’t run me off. I’m an Oregonian. I’m a human being. I should be treated like a human being.”

“Right on,” says Mubarak.

Rebecca Koffman


  1. David K. Bailey says:

    I looked for you guys at “under the bridges” and missed you. I will look for you at sisters on 1st and 3rd Tues at 6pm from now on!

    • sorry we missed you! we’d love to see you the 2nd and 4th Thursdays at Sisters of the Road. That’s our regular meeting time. We always have some food to eat and catch up with each other for the first 30 minutes of the meeting. hope to see you soon!

  2. David K. Bailey says:

    For the past 3 years I had suffered trauma with my feet and legs, totalliing a six digit bill I obviously cant pay, houseless, in the rain, an agency gave me a place to stay, rent, buspass and utilities paid. In one week at a hospital…100,000 plus, how long would it take to equalize my rent against my hospital bill if I never saw another ER? Over 9 years.
    How much would America saved if all the vacant, mortgaged, houses were used the house the homeless…Obama wants 14.3Trillion debt to be reversed, the fed did NOT raise the debt ceiling for new funds this term. Though it wont solve the entire debt, I see a percentage incentive here, dont you? D. Bailey

  3. Schmuckatelli says:

    Does anyone want to talk about what public safety means for people living in their cars?

  4. Kecia says:

    Hi R2d2,
    I am a student at Portland community college who is helpin to organize the earth day event at cascade camPus in northeast Portland. An important goal for us is to address social justice issues and include members of the community regardless of their ability to monetArily contribute to the event. I think that it is absolutely crucial in a “community” event to provide for the open and equitable exchange of ideas between the house-less community and the ever growing environmental movement in Portland. From a social justice perspective, it is inconceivable to envision the future of urban development in portland without addressing the issue of homelessness and providing for the sustainable, healthy existence of all portlanders. We would be thrilled to have representatives of R2d2 at our event providing information, outreach, or whatever you feel would further your cause, at our event. Most of our vendors/booths pay on a sliding scale to participate in the earth day event, but we would love to have your organization participate regardless of any ability to contribute monetarily. Honestly, I love what r2d2 stands for and I want to do whatever is possible to connEct r2d2 to the wealth of local people and resources who will be at this event.
    If this is of any interest to you Please let me know how I can assist you in creating a strong presence for R2d2 at earth day.
    Thanks, and I hope to hear from you soon-
    Kecia Jones
    Social justice committee, Earth Day 2012

  5. Mike Dee says:

    Next Under the Bridge Walk(s), August 28th, 2012. There will be two walks, one going over the Bridge to the East-Side of Portland, and one going to NW Portland/Pearl District. The East-side walk will gather at NW 4th & W. Burnside at 6:45p.m., leave at 7:00pm. and walk over the Burnside bridge to the East-side of Portland. The N.W. Portland/Pearl Bridge walk will meet at Sniff Dog Hotel at 6:45p.m. Plan a route, have a quick snack/drink and start out at 7:15p.m.
    Sniff Dog Hotel, 1828 NW Raleigh St. Portland, OR 97209, 503-208-2366

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