Portland cops charge homeless woman with theft for charging her phone

In Portland, OR, "Jackie," a homeless former social worker with muscular dystrophy, was hit with a misdemeanor theft charge for charging her phone from a plug on a planter-base on a sidewalk; she spent a day in jail when she missed her arraignment.

The electricity she used to charge her phone was worth a fraction of a cent. She keeps her phone charged for her personal safety. Worried that a pleading guilty would put a black mark on her record that would interfere with her ability to get social housing, she pled innocent. After two court dates with two different public defenders, the DA dropped the charge.

Jackie usually tries to stay away from Old Town because, she says, she gets hassled a lot, by people on the streets and police alike.

"I used to come down here with my kids and grandkids all the time before I was homeless, and I was never harassed once," she says. For many years she worked in social services, and in some cases, with police officers. "I always liked cops," she says. But now, she says, her perspective has changed.

"Before I became homeless, I had no idea what was going on," she says. "Now I get harassed. How do you think that makes me feel?"

Jackie says she prefers to sleep in close proximity to the police station because she feels safer there. But if she wants to shower or eat, Old Town is where are all the resources are. For Jackie, having a charged cell phone is a matter of personal safety. "Men approach me, stuff happens," she says.

On the day of her arrest, she had to walk through Old Town to get to Transition Projects to take a shower, and her phone was dead.

Homeless phone-charging "thief" wanted security
[Emily Green/Street Roots]