The temporary shelter booted the homeless at 8 a.m., so Rickie Wright passed the morning under awnings and other dry spaces. At 11, he decided to shoot for some place warmer.
"Does anyone know when the 77 comes?" Wright asked a group of people at a bus shelter on Northwest 5th Avenue and Everett Street. "I need to get to Troutdale."
Four homeless people had died from hypothermia this month. Wright, 36, might have found another night at a shelter, but the Love's truck stop in Troutdale seemed a safer bet. It had wireless internet and showers, amenities the Imago Dei emergency shelter run by Transition Projects in Southwest Portland did not.
"The 77 is the only bus that goes from here to there," Wright said.
A 30-something in Patagonia gear pulled out his cell phone to check.
"I'm looking at PDXLiveBus," he said and showed Wright website that gives TriMet schedules. "It tracks the GPS of every bus. The 77 just fell off the map."
Another woman checked TriMet's app and spotted one due in 35 minutes. That could mean anything, she explained.
The governor had declared a state of emergency. Every bus line had an alert. The MAX wasn't crossing bridges, and TriMet had canceled routes. But Wright was homeless and carless. He had to hope a long-delayed ride would eventually show.
"I guess I'll wait," Wright said.
Two 8s, a 35 and a 44 passed. The bus shelter cleared out. At 11:40 a.m., a driver stopped to ask Wright, by then the only one waiting, where he needed to be. Wright said Troutdale. The driver was headed somewhere else, but he told Wright to hop on the 8.
The bus chugged over the Steel Bridge then stopped at Rose Quarter Transit Center. The driver left, then returned and told Wright he'd be better waiting outside.
Wright smoked a Camel full flavor cigarette, the cheapest he could find. He had a red beard and light blue eyes, a camouflage green coat with a camo green vest on top.
"I read that book the Portland woman wrote," he said. "Wild."
Cheryl Strayed's account of hiking the Pacific Coast Trail had sustained him, he said.
"I read it twice while I was in the hole, solitary some call it," he said. "I done 10 years total. I wrote one of them free book shops, and they sent Cheryl Strayed. Reading 'Wild,' being locked up, got me to wanting freedom. I would do the PCT Trail, but I don't have anyone to send me packages so I don't die along the way. I came to Portland instead."
Wright watched as half a dozen Latinos shoveled out the sidewalks that led to Moda Center. He had lived in Arkansas, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas. Every state had one thing in common.
"No matter where I go, Hispanics are are always willing to do the work no one else will," Wright said. "That's commendable."
He had looked for work on Craigslist. He messaged a man who said he needed help loading a U-Haul.
"I told him I was homeless," Wright said. "He didn't write back."
Desperate, he had "flown a sign" for two hours. Portlanders like a seemingly honest panhandler, he said, so he had written, "Why lie? It's for beer" on the cardboard. He had made more in two hours than he had working two weeks of Craigslist jobs.
"The irony is I don't drink," Wright said. "I will smoke weed if someone gives it to me. But I don't like drinking alone. What I really want is a big bowl of chili, a mug of hot chocolate. You can't buy hot food with food stamps."
He waited 45 minutes at the Rose Quarter. No eastbound 77 showed. At 1 o'clock, he spotted one heading west.
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