“I Should Have Moved Somewhere Else”: The Impacts of Gentrification on Transportation and Social Support for Black Working-Poor Families in Portland, Oregon
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“I Should Have Moved Somewhere Else”: The Impacts of Gentrification on Transportation and Social Support for Black Working-Poor Families in Portland, Oregon

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    Final Report (11/2016 – 8/2020)
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    Portland has faced a mass displacement of Black households from the historically segregated area of Albina through various phases of urban renewal, urban deterioration, and gentrification. A substantial number of them have moved to East Portland, a suburban segment of the City of Portland that was unincorporated county land prior to the 1990’s. As Black people have left Albina, the roots of Blackness there have eroded from the area as businesses and churches catering to them have also closed as a result of lost patrons. In this study I interviewed 27 low-income working-age Black people with children with the sample divided between Albina and East Portland. I talked to them about how they got around, the places they were going, the people in their lives that help them get by, and how it has all been affected by gentrification. I evaluated their interviews through the theories of social reproduction and social exclusion with an emphasis on geographic differences in lived experiences between Albina and East Portland. I found that people in Albina were better resourced, on average, to accomplish their daily life maintenance. Through easier transportation (including a higher rate of car ownership), better and stronger social support networks, and a higher density of nearby destinations, Albina residents could get around faster, easier, and accomplish more in a day. East Portlanders struggled far more. Clustering of destinations around the western edge of East Portland put those destinations out of reach for most of them. Support networks for people in East Portland featured a lot of friends and family that had also been displaced, but their networks there were under-resourced. They often had to turn to their network living in Albina for their more critical needs like childcare, but it took a lot more effort to utilize. Overall, the cultural rootedness of Albina appeared to be eroding as more and more Black people left and were being replaced by high-end shops, restaurants, and White people. Safety concerns on transit was leading to huge declines in willingness to use transit. This was spurred in part by the racially-motivated murders on MAX, but mostly because of their encounters with homeless people and people with untreated mental illnesses which also spilled over into overt racist acts against them or their children. And while East Portland has had a lot of investments in road safety, it is the distance between destinations that has really hurt their ability to survive. As East Portland continues to grow with more low-income people of color, more attention needs to go to the urban development of the area to make life a little easier for them.
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