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Rachel Sapin

Under the Bridges Tours

OPB | June 20, 2012 9:06 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 11:39 p.m.

Rachel Sapin/OPB

Longtime homeless advocate Ibrahim Mubarak leads “Under the Bridges” tours of Portland’s homeless camps. He says the tours give people a rare glimpse into the lives of those who make their homes under Portland’s iconic bridges.

Think Out Loud took the tour on Tuesday and took some photos:


Photo credit: Rachel Sapin/OPB

Mubarak helped to start Right 2 Dream Too, a semi-permanent encampment in Old Town/China Town for Portland’s homeless. He was also one of the co-founders of Dignity Village a decade ago. He says,

“My tour is to take people into areas they normally don’t go, and normally wouldn’t go to. When I was sleeping on the streets, sometimes I found refuge sleeping under the bridges, especially in the industrial Southeast area.”

The Under the Bridges walk happens every first and third Tuesday of the month. Starting at Right 2 Dream Too, the tour makes stops at the Union Gospel Mission and the Portland Rescue Mission before crossing the Burnside Bridge and winding south along the East Bank Esplanade toward the Hawthorne Bridge. Mubarak says the walk takes roughly two hours, as he hands out flyers on homeless rights to people camped under the bridges. He also encourages tour participants to interact with the people they meet at each stop.

Mubarak believes people walk away from these tours seeing homeless people in a more empathetic light. “They hear their stories and realize this person is human too,” he says. Still, the idea of bringing non-homeless people into the places where homeless people live has been criticized as “class tourism.”

Have you gone on one of these tours? What drew you in? What did you learn? Have you been on the other side, hosting tourists in the place where you sleep? What do tours of homeless camps mean to those inside and outside of the homeless community?

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