Homeless in Portland: Time For a Change ( by David Anderson)

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I have been volunteering at My Father’s House in Gresham; they serve family’s experiencing homelessness in the Portland metropolitan area. I have met some great people that have fell on hard times. Through this experience and some of my other volunteering with the homeless population in Portland, it has made me feel as though there is a great injustice going on in our city, and that something needs to be done about it. This brought me to my research question: What can be done in our community to end homelessness? I have compiled some great research on effective ways to get this task accomplished. With some of my research I decided to write a letter to the mayor briefly outlining my concerns and some ideas of how to get it accomplished, or at least on how to get the conversation started on tackling this huge issue in our city.

                My research collection:

Shinn, Marybeth, Jim Baumohl, and Kim Hopper. “The Prevention Of Homelessness Revisited.” Analyses Of Social Issues & Public Policy 1.1 (2001): 95. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

                In this peer reviewed article the authors discuss how the efforts of organizations and government try to prevent homelessness by finding families or individuals that are at risk of ending up homeless. Shinn et al., goes on to say that while they are trying to identify those people that are at risk they also identify people that they think are at risk but never end up going homeless.  Shinn et al., adds that the only thing that has been proven to end homelessness is placement into housing and sustainable sources of lively hood in the community or nationwide. Shinn et al., furthers the conversation and says that those organizations should basically stop with trying to identify who is potentially at risk for ending up homeless and reallocate the funds to get more housing and sustainable jobs because that is the only thing that has been proven to end homelessness.

                This article basically answers my research question. They point out the big flaws in the current model, with the idea of prevention in mind and show how it doesn’t work, then they move into a proven model that is backed up with substantial proof; what they are suggesting actually provides the families or individuals with affordable housing and stability. Basically they show how to prevent homelessness and why the current model is ineffective and suggest that they should re-orient themselves from helping at risk people to an increased supply of affordable housing. This is an authoritative article because it is a peer reviewed published study that has gone under the scrutiny of their peers in their field.

Kresky-Wolff, Marilyn, et al. “Supportive Housing Approaches In The Collaborative Initiative To Help End Chronic Homelessness (CICH).” Journal Of Behavioral Health Services & Research 37.2 (2010): 213-225. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

                 This peer reviewed study is about a HUD program to help end chronic homelessness. They funded 11 sites around the nation with three different styles of housing configuration (scattered units, congregate/clustered, or a combination). They show which configuration is the best style for affordable housing, and they go on to discuss the types of supportive roles that were most effective and show which groups were the most stable and successful over 12 months when they followed up on the individuals for the study.

                I think that this article compliments the article above very well, and shows the most effective type of affordable housing to build to help end chronic or temporary homelessness. This article not only helps in answering my research question it focuses it down to show exactly what is the most effective way to get affordable housing to the homeless and backs up what Shinn et al., were saying in there study , “The Prevention Of Homelessness Revisited.” This is an authoritative article because it is a peer reviewed published study that has gone under the scrutiny of their peers in their field.

Hopper, Jessica, Tim Sandler, and Christina Boado. “Employed but Still Homeless, Working Poor Say ‘Homelessness Can Happen to Anybody'” NBC News. N.p., 28 Nov. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2013

                This is an article by NBC news and was aired on Rock Center with Brian Williams. It showcases some ordinary family’s that are still working but have lost their homes and are now living in a homeless shelter. They show how homelessness can really affect everyone and really appeals to the reader since they can relate to it. It also shows how once you are homeless how hard it is to get back into affordable housing and get enough money to pay all of the deposits and move in fees even if you are making enough to pay the rent.

                I like this article and I believe it puts a human aspect to it and helps relate to the readers so there is not a disconnect from those with homes and those without. It also shows how hard it is to get a home once you have lost it, so I think it helps corroborate my two other peer reviewed articles that there is a need for more affordable housing for those that are in extreme poverty. It also helps put a face to all of those statistics that are reported in the peer reviewed article. I believe that this is an authoritative article because it is from a reputable news agency (NBC) and has direct firsthand accounts and interviews of what is actually going on.

                Schmidt, Brad. “Portland Mayor Charlie Hales Says Enforcement ‘not about Homelessness, It’s about Lawlessness'” The Oregonian. The Oregonian, 8 Aug. 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

                This article by the Oregonian discusses how the mayor is enforcing the anti-camping law in Portland Oregon. The Mayor is basically refuting the claims that he is criminalizing homelessness. He goes on to say that he is “criminalizing lawlessness” and isn’t targeting homeless. He then adds at the end of the article “We’re not going to wait until the homelessness problem is solved before we start dealing with the problem of lawlessness,” Hales said. “Otherwise we’d wait a very long time.”

                I chose this article because I want to write a letter to our mayor in regards to his homeless policy. What I believe he is doing is just relocating the homeless because it is an “eye sore” to see the homeless sleeping in downtown Portland. What this article shows is that here in our community that the policy’s set by our officials isn’t solving the problem to end homelessness, it is just relocating the problem out of the public’s eye. I believe this is an authoritative article because it is an article from the local media and it is a direct first hand interview with our mayor on the issue of homelessness.

                My letter to the Mayor:

November 29th 2013

David Anderson

2718 NE 205th AVE Apt 134

Fairview, OR 97024

The Honorable Charlie Hales

1221 SW 4th Ave, Room 340

Portland, OR 97204

Dear Mayor Hales,

I am writing you to express my concerns about individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Portland.

My name is David Anderson and I am currently an EMT serving our great city and a returning veteran from Iraq. It has come to my attention through volunteering that there is a tremendous need to help the homeless population in our city. I am sure that you are well aware of the statistics, but according to a report done by the city of Portland that, on any day there are 2,869 individuals without homes and 1,572 people in transitional housing. In my opinion those are staggering, and un-acceptable statistics.

Another statistic comes from my personal experience with the homeless. I have been volunteering at Portland Homeless Family Solutions and My Father’s House in Gresham. Last month there were over one hundred families on the waiting list for emergency shelter just for Portland Homeless Family Solutions alone; that means that there was one hundred families with children not able to have a safe place to sleep at night. These statistics and my personal experience have made my concerns grow for our families and individuals that are experiencing homelessness.

I am also concerned about the policies that are set by your administration regarding the homeless community. I understand why you have enforced the anti-camping law that directly effects the homeless, but your policies have spread further than in front of your office. O-dot and the police have been clearing out homeless camps all over Portland all the way up to Johnson Creek, destroying what little they do own and displacing them around our city. The anti-camping ban that you have deemed “lawlessness” in a recent Oregonian interview, is not only using valuable resources to enforce, it is accomplishing very little, and is only temporarily displacing the problem of homelessness out of the public’s view. I understand the need to keep our sidewalks clear, but I believe it is just a symptom of the chronic illness plaguing our city. What we need is a cure to this illness.

There are two studies that I have come across in my research that detail the problem, and they both have a peer reviewed, science based solution to the problem. In the first study titled The Prevention of Homelessness Revisited, Analyses Of Social Issues & Public Policy by Shinn et al., they show that the current model that most cities employ (ours included, it was in the  is in the “10 year plan to end homelessness” that failed),  is one of identifying those at risk of homelessness to stop it before it happens, and they show how that it is ineffective and wastes resources; Then they go on to show that cheap affordable housing was the only thing that was shown to be not only cost effective, but ended homelessness for 90% of the individuals in the study. They follow it up one year later and the individuals in the study were stable and able to sustain their housing and were still living independently.

 The next study that I came across in my research for an answer compliments the study that I just described above very well.  It was a study that was done in conjunction with HUD titled Supportive Housing Approaches in the Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic Homelessness by Marilyn et al., where they describe the best and most successful types of affordable housing that are successful and cost effective. The study was one that was done over 11 HUD sites across the nation with three different types of affordable housing models that were used for rapid re housing (scattered units, congregate/clustered, or a combination). They outline what was the most effective for these types of units and what the staff had to do to promote independent living and stability, and also had a very high success rate with ending homelessness for those individuals and families.

What I am trying to show you in my mentioning of these two studies is that there is effective ways to end homelessness with high success rates that are cost effective. If there is affordable housing and also rapid re-housing of the homeless, not only would we cure this chronic problem in our city and help those that are in need of our help, it will also end this lawlessness of sleeping on our sidewalks. The long term effects of ending homelessness would be tremendously beneficial to the city of Portland, which I feel you can agree with. I am suggesting that your policies help with the actual issue at hand, which is homelessness. I believe if the city invests into affordable housing, in conjunction with rapid re-housing of the homeless the city could potentially end or greatly reduce the number of homeless in Portland, and could potentially be a model for the nation.

 I understand that what I am proposing is a huge undertaking and couldn’t be given justice in one letter.  What I hope though, is that it starts a larger conversation of truly trying to end this chronic problem in our great city, and not just temporarily alleviating the symptoms, which isn’t cost effective or beneficial for anyone. I have faith in our community and our elected officials that we can come together and do the impossible. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to read a letter from a concerned citizen and fellow public servant. Please contact me if you have any further questions or concerns. Thank you.

Sincerely,

David Anderson

An Author’s Note: I have learned so much this term about homelessness. The biggest connection I made throughout this term is how much I have in common with the families without homes. I realized how easy it can be to lose your home through a set of unfortunate circumstances, and how my family could be in there shoes fighting for the basic necessities of life. I have also learned how many homeless there are in our community and the lack of support that the homeless community gets. The only way to end this injustice in the most powerful country in the world is for us to stand together and get rid of our negative bias of the homeless, and help those in our community that truly need our support.

Tag : Homeless, homelessness, family homelessness, family shelter, homeless shelter, family, Portland homeless, community.

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3 comments

  1. Thank you for figuring out how to post this!!

  2. David:
    Your writing here is powerful because it is both research based AND experience based. I think that going big with your request and vision in the letter to the mayor is a very strong choice in the face of such a dire problem in our community. Your empathy is a key element in how persuasive this piece (and all of your writing this term) has been!
    -Zapoura

  3. I have really enjoyed reading your writing. I know Homelessness is a real concern in Portland. While riding the train through the city you see so many homeless people just trying to stay out of the cold for a little while. This always makes me worry about the homeless families with small children and their ability to find safe and warm places to sleep in the winter.

    I think you made a great choice in writing to the mayor. You mention in your letter “Last month there were over one hundred families on the waiting list for emergency shelter just for Portland Homeless Family Solutions alone; that means that there was one hundred families with children not able to have a safe place to sleep at night” This really helps open the readers eyes to how very real this problem is. So true that we often see the homeless as something to get rid of or that they are all addicts that chose to live this way. We forget that most of them are hard working families who have fallen on hard times and genuinely need help to get back on there feet financially. We forget that we are all just a couple steps away from being in the same situation.
    You did a good job of pointing out your concerns and giving plans of action backed up by your resources. You have some great resources to use.I really think that your plan for re-homing families in affordable housing from Supportive Housing Approaches in the Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic Homelessness by Marilyn et al, sounds like a great start. I think you made a great argument overall and hope that the major considers what you have said.

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