Today I went to a forum on homelessness and affordable housing in the region. In a small room were Mayor Sam Adams, City Commissioner Nick Fish, City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Cameron Whitten and many non profit leaders. I heard a lot of stats like:
- 7 million households are doubled up— 2 + families in a single occupancy home. (nationally? State-wide?)
- 20,000 homeless k-12 students in Portland area
- 85% of local homeless services are paid for by local (city or county) budgets
- 17,000+ people sleep outside nightly
- 4 housing authorities and 3 work force offices independently offer services in metro Portland (need more partnering)
There were solutions like:
- We need to offer training for the jobs available. Farming, skilled labor, mechanics, manufacturing
- stop bank foreclosures and prevent empty houses
- decriminalize camping, and loitering in parks and abandoned lots
- provide temporary “rest stops” in the city
Overall, I agree with the solutions. They just seem so difficult to implement. And I seem to always “get” both sides of a law, which makes things like decriminalizing homelessness complicated in my head. I was raised to respect authority. So I do…even when I don’t agree. That is one of the reasons the forum was nice today.
I was surprised at the civility of all who participated. These issues can easily cause divisiveness. Right to Dream 2 aka R2D2 and the city were well represented and respectful even if they are breaking codes and being fined daily. The only interruption was by an occupy related protest group who was also civil and spoke their piece on a momentary break before leaving again.
It is still sad to me that it is such an issue that a forum is held and a movie is made about it. A movie called American Winter is about the affordable housing in my city. It saddens me that we have to have a social services line. To prevent people from falling thru the cracks in a broken society. From being “left behind” which was mentioned a lot. Because we don’t train people well. We don’t offer dignity. We don’t offer relationship. And so we have forums.
At the end of the day, the whole thing renewed my faith in government and bureaucracy to an extent. I felt like a grown up as I sat next to Commissioner Fritz and was actually corrected by her for not using all my resources available. The day made me remember that I am not alone. And I live in a great city!
Speaking of which, I have Blazer tickets! See ya!