Speaking of social services and public artwork, the original Outside In clinic has been demolished. The building in the photo above is no longer. Which isn’t a shame, it was a squashed space, better suited for a garage rather than a crisis health clinic.

In recent years the sign on the roof had hosted a variety of political mural messages, visible to commuters traveling at SW 13th and Salmon in downtown Portland.

This clinic has a position in Portland history. Opened in 1969 by Dr. Charles Spray as a response to an increase of transient hippies and their medical problems – primarily drugs – Outside In was modeled somewhat after San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury Free Clinic.

Spray and Outside In had fanciful notions about addiction, but provided clinical treatments where hospitals and private docs presented barriers. Outside In not only intervened with bad acid trips, but also doled out birth control, treated venereal diseases, watched for TB, patched up small injuries, gave good counsel and acted as a liaison to the straight medical community.

Spray and his pals located Outside In downtown to be near youth hangouts – very enterprising for Portland. Other non-church social services followed. Spray also received funding from the county and from the city. At first the govs were reluctant but fairly soon Outside In clearly segmented a community private agencies didn’t want. Within a decade the county remodeled its public health clinics to become welcoming storefronts and hired staff and changed intake processes to reduce barriers, at first for hippies, but later for new immigrants, poor people, aged people and the homeless.

More about the history of Outside In by Steve Johnson.

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