Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Berlin vs. Portland Sidewalks

In Berlin, sidewalks are lively places with vendors, musicians, artists, and an ever changing cast of characters and attractions. I love walking in Berlin, even though the ever present cigarette smoke can sometimes make walking an unpleasant experience. By contrast, walking in Portland is relatively smoke free; but like many American cities, Portland has its own problems: the scores of homeless and mentally ill people populating the sidewalks. 

With 3.5 million inhabitants, Berlin certainly has its share of homeless and mentally ill people, but for some reason they're not obvious. (I can barely remember seeing more than a handful.) In Portland, a city of only 64,000, they are plainly visible all around us. This morning as I was walking to the gym, I saw beggars asking for money on almost every street corner, sometimes two per corner. What a contrast. It's a shame that our cities have become the dumping ground for our most vulnerable and neglected citizens. 

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