PORTLAND -- Homeless “travelers” from all over the country have gathered in Portland as they have for several summers.
The city appears to be a convenient meeting place for men and women without homes or cars who travel around the west.
A 19-year-old in a Robin Hood-style cap said his name is Alexander. He played a flute on a sidewalk in downtown Portland today. “I just traveled from Montana to Oregon just two weeks ago,” he said.
Some travelers ride freight trains, although the rail lines have their own police who try to keep travelers off.
Alexander said he prefers hitch hiking. “And what appeals to the traveling life for me is like the liberation, the freedom. Just having everything you need in your back pack, you know? It’s not like you have too many things to make life complicated.”
Alexander said his next stop is California. He’d like to walk on Mt. Shasta and explore the Redwoods.
His friend Dre just wanted to get out of Ohio.
“It feels much more vast out here. There's way less people. It’s almost like less claustrophobic. Everyone's more environmentally conscientious out here,” he said.
Both know that travelers don't have the best reputation in Portland.
“There's good people and bad people,” said Dre with a shrug.
Those “bad people” are part of the reason the city has rules against sitting on sidewalks in front of the food carts and now at city hall.
Police officer Todd Engstrom has dealt with travelers for years. He’s met homeless travelers from all over the country.
“The weather's mild. It’s a pretty liberal city, very welcoming for the most part and a lot of social services in town," said Engstrom. "I think the word for years has been that it’s a nice place to stop in the summertime."
But police say among the free spirits are criminals, including the unknown suspect who police believe attacked 70-year-old Larry Allen with a skateboard last week.