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Portland, Oregon — like so many Democratically led cities — has a major homeless problem. One that the city’s mayor didn’t do anything about until he had an undeniable reason to do so: pickleball.
The city saw a spike in homelessness following the start of the COVID pandemic, and since then the city’s Laurelhurst Park has been the sight of homeless encampments.
For the most part, the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, has been slow to address the issue. This year, the mayor’s office said that there were 6,00 homeless people in the city. However, it’s typically thought that figure is low.
On Monday, the homeless were cleared out of the park, and the next day, construction on some brand-spankin’ new pickleball courts was underway.
The people there were given a heads-up that they would need to leave and were assisted in finding a place to stay. They weren’t simply told to hit the bricks.
So then why wasn’t this done years ago?
“These plans for Laurelhurst Park have been in the work for some time. It’s a great opportunity to revamp areas of the park to better serve the community — something that the neighborhood has been asking for,” a spokesperson said.
Surely, the neighborhood had been asking for this. The second the first homeless encampment hit the scene, residents were on the blower trying to get the problem addressed.
Still, the city did nothing about it.
Then the pickleball sensation became too much to ignore
Will Pickleball Help Solve The Nations Homeless Problem
There’s no reason that Portland couldn’t have cleared that park earlier. According to Willamette Week, those living near the park routinely asked the city to do something about the homeless camps.
However, they never came up with a permanent plan to get the people out of the park and replace it with something else.
They just didn’t want to. Maybe it was that there wasn’t a good enough replacement for a tent city.
I wouldn’t be shocked if other ideas for the park had been brought up over the years that were all shot down. Maybe they’d rather have dozens of homeless people milling about than a few tetherball poles or a shuffleboard court.
Who knows? Portland keeps it weird.
But the one idea they couldn’t turn down was some pickleball courts.
Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the nation and one that Bill Gates likes to remind people he played before it was cool.
The sport is everywhere, including — as we now know — Portland’s Laurelhurst Park.
Most people just see pickleball as a way to blow off steam. But it looks like it could soon be the very thing that makes cities finally tackle their homelessness problems.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle