Empower vs. Enable (by Renee B.)

Empower vs. Enable

My research question is a look into how the current public services for Portland’s homeless population lead to a continuing cycle of using the services and how putting government money towards education, rehabilitation and job training for the homeless would be a more effective use of government funded programs. I am researching this question because the organization I volunteer with, Transitional Youth, has implemented GED programs and job training and as a result, many of the homeless youth have gotten clean, off the streets and found jobs. During my time volunteering, I have learned that government funded agencies such as shelters and temporary housing lose part of their funding if they are not at full capacity. When I discovered this truth I found it to be very counterintuitive that these agencies are fighting to keep homeless people in their beds, instead of encouraging them to find their own way. I will be sending my writing to the mayor and commissioner of Portland.

Part 1

Resources:

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/article/451470

This article talks about the statistics of homeless people in Portland. It discusses the percentages of homeless with mental illness, a background of poverty, those who have been in jail and a possibility of other contributing factors. This publication is more about the raw facts and statistics, it is not really a story.

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/60643

This article talks about the steps that Portland is taking to get homeless people off the streets permanently It also talks about how 4000 people sleep on the streets of Portland every night. It has a lot of good information about the services that Portland provides. If anyone volunteers their time to the homeless this would be a good article to point you to resources you could inform them about.

http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/12/i-believe-in-human-rights-youth-homelessness-and-education/

This article is about Deborah S. Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. She has a passion for ensuring homeless youth have an equal right in receiving a good education. Her belief is that in order for these youth to not continue the cycle of homelessness education is key because it will provide them with the tools and skills they need to succeed in life. She tells incredible stories of youth who have taken care of their moms, dads, brothers, and sisters on the streets while going to school. She sheds light on the truths of what homeless youth who are trying to continue their education struggle with and fight for on day-to-day bases.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/21/homeless-students-american-colleges/3144383/

This article talks about a girl who went to college while she was homeless. Her aid didn’t cover her costs and she had to worry about having enough money for a shelter and hotel instead of her grades. The article also talk about how UCLA has recognized the problem of homelessness and financial stress that their students may be dealing with so they have created an economic crisis response team. Their economic crisis response team can help with meal vouchers, shelter, and other types of assistance. Other colleges have also recognized this issue and many are beginning to invest more time and money into programs like the crisis response team.

Part 2:Image

February 7, 2014

Portland City Hall
1221 SW 4th Ave

Portland, OR 97204

Dear Mr. Hale:

Every night more than 4,000 homeless people sleep on the streets of Portland. I am sure with this growing number there is much pressure on you to do something about this increasing population. I understand that funding is scarce and many of the residents in Portland are beginning to complain more about their concerns of homeless people in their neighborhoods. However, I firmly believe that the money used to house people in shelters and our current social services would be of much greater value if used toward education, job training, and rehabilitation.

I write this letter to urge you to look at the facts, numbers, and statistics regarding this proposal and consider the effects it would have on our city. Many would agree, and history is proof, that not only are our current social services for the homeless failing, but they are also contributing to the raise in homelessness over the past few years.

Many of our homeless population drift from shelter to shelter or shelter to prison and usually the cycle continues most of their lives. Almost 50% of homeless people report having been in jail for five or more days, and almost 20% report that they have been in a federal prison. Depending on the state, prison can cost up to $60,000 per year for one inmate. Wouldn’t it make more sense if Oregon had programs in place that used that money to keep people out of jail by putting it towards job training, rehab and education. I can guarantee programs like this would cost much less than $60,000 per year for one person.

It is time that policy makers, people of authority like yourself take a different look at how our social services are working; or in this case not working. With even the educated, experienced, and law abiding citizens having a hard time finding work; how much more difficult is it for our citizens with no education, no work experience, and no home. What are people to do when they have no job no education and no home. Where do we expect them to turn? You have the power to be a voice in this change and demand education instead of homelessness, rehabilitation, job training; the possibilities of positive impact you could have could be historical.

I have first hand experience with seeing how people can turn their lives around. I volunteer with a non-profit organization that helps get homeless youth back on their feet. Since I have worked there I have seen an amazing amount find jobs, houses, and go back to school. Everyone who I have worked with that has gotten a job has not returned to the streets. We have even had youth who have turned their lives around with their education and jobs and now they volunteer. Every dollar received for these services are from donations and none of the volunteers are counselors or educators, but what if they were? What if the state were funding a program like this? How much more would the number of people staying out of the system grow? I can guarantee a program that educated, job trained, counseled, and helped those who have been in jail or are in trouble would cost substantially less than the amount spent on additional jail or prison time, shelters, welfare programs,

I know understand that lawmakers and politicians have a heavy burden to carry and that polices go far beyond what the public can see. I understand that certain social services and shelters have extreme pressure to keep their beds filled; otherwise an amount of their funding is cut.

I ask that you take this time to look at things a different way. I ask that you take the time to look at the facts and the numbers and the potential lives and families at stake. You have the power to be a voice in this community that can save lives and bring about an incredible positive change. Please reconsider and ask yourself what kind of change you want to be in your city.

Thank you for your time,

Renee Brant

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2 comments

  1. christinacampbell2

    Renee,
    You have a chosen a great topic and it is apparent that you are writing about something you are passionate about. You have a strong, specific research question which investigates a positive solution to Portland’s homeless problem. I think it strengthens your argument that your volunteer work so closely relates to your letter to the mayor. You are able to use your own personal evidence to solidify your case. Your research adds the perfect amount of statistics to back up the emotional argument you give to the growing problem of homeless youth in Portland. I also enjoy that you acknowledge that being in a political position is hard but that solving these problems is an important part of that job and one they should be doing. You present a clear, powerful case that government spending should be placed on education, job placement and rehabilitation instead of shelters and homes.

    The only negative I see is a possible typo in your second to last paragraph that says: “I know understand…” Yes, the only negative in your project I could find was a typo. You really show evidence of strong research and it is apparent you are very knowledgable about your topic. I too wrote a letter about redirecting government funds, mine addressed the issue of mental health, something that also affects the homeless population. I believe having access to mental health services would also help get people off the streets, especially with youth because it would give them that chance to have a better more fulfilling life. Your project was very interesting to read and very informative. I think your letter is very persuasive and I hope it impacts how the government chooses to act in the future. Great job!

    ~Christina

  2. I think this was a great letter to send to City Hall. My current room mate recently turned his life around from being a junky street-kid, to a employed citizen with a great roof over his head and even better attitude. He attributes much of his success to the few peers he had that were also in a non-profit organization that was set up to help get the homeless into any kind of job if they were willing to accept the offer.

    I also wrote a letter to the commissioner in regards to music becoming more acceptable in the city as a form of communication within the community. I strongly believe that when a person in a position such as being homeless is given a little bit of hope backed by some faith, there is an unspoken phenomenon that occurs. I won’t go into detail, but i really did like this article and the way you articulated it. It seems like it would be well received by anyone who reads it! Keep up the good work, thanks for the great read!

    -Nic

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