Becoming More Informed: A Proposal
Homelessness has been a problem in Portland for as long as I remember. I took public transportation to school since I was in seventh grade, and my bus route went right through the Old Town part of Downtown Portland. There were homeless people left and right. And to know that homelessness hasn’t gone down a tick in almost ten years is outright shocking. Recently, I took a trip to Seattle and spent five days in the heart of what has to be the worst city in the United States. I was in town for a comic convention, my hotel was a fifteen minute walk from the convention center. On the walks back to the hotel I was either tripping over homeless people because they were just asleep in the middle of the sidewalk, my girlfriend was being cat-called and screamed at by them, or we were being followed. Every night we spent in the hotel we heard a never ending stream of cop cars outside. With the growth of homeless people in Portland not dwindling we need to find a way to stop the situation before Portland turns into Seattle.
Even with many efforts to help decrease the homeless situation in Portland it has shown no sign of being hindered, in fact statistics show the opposite, “Over the past two years, the number of adult women experiencing homelessness grew by 15% (from 1,089 to 1,161 women). Nearly half of the women surveyed reported having been victims of domestic violence, and 67% reported having a disability. The additional vulnerability of women, and in particular women of color, to violence and severe trauma once they become homeless is well-documented. It must be a priority to take action and to work with our healthcare and domestic violence system partners to provide women the housing options and services they need to reverse this trend.” (The City of Portland, Oregon, 2017) Many people who think about homelessness don’t think about the people themselves and the issues they face. Not everyone chooses to be homeless and we as a community should work harder to get these people back on their feet.
It’s important to understand that becoming homeless isn’t something that people can always control, and that it could happen to any one of us under the right circumstances. “Once a man or woman loses a job or a home, getting those things back can feel nearly impossible. Imagine trying to get a job when you have no address to put on a resume, no phone number, no shower and no clean-pressed clothes. Often, things like legal issues, criminal history, mental illness, physical and emotional health hinder progress even more.” (Portland Rescue Mission, 2017) When considering homelessness I oftentimes think of my girlfriends father who has chosen to be homeless. He would rather live on the streets, stand on corners begging for money so that he can go get drunk, and have no money to his name, than he would have a job, a home and a relationship with his children. When many people think of homeless people they don’t think of this type of person, they think of the person who hasn’t had a chance to get back on their feet and make something good of their situation. Because of this situation I fall in the middle of the spectrum on how we should deal with homelessness. I am not so understanding and forgiving that I believe we should let these people live rent free, with no intent to ever be paid back for this service.
People are getting fed up with the growth in the homeless population and the way that we have been handling it so far. “After Mayor Hales declared a State of Emergency for housing and homelessness in September, both the city and the county dedicated millions of dollars toward creating more shelter beds. But even though the city added 283 beds and made another 290 open year-round, shelters are still at capacity every night. That leaves many on the street and some neighborhood associations and local businesses are fed up. On April 20, both Hales and the City of Portland were sued by a group of neighbors and businesses over the city’s new policy that allows people to camp on sidewalks and public land.” (Sara Roth, 2017) This is proof that we havent been handling the situation is a way that will solve the problem. So ar it has been handled in a very, “let’s cover up the problem” instead of solving it. “A decade ago, federal housing officials made a deal with more than 300 American communities: Let’s end chronic homelessness in 10 years. Local leaders nationwide embraced the challenge. They drafted plans, created budgets, held public meetings and congratulated themselves on being part of a national movement to get people off the streets.Then most failed. Miserably, in many cases.” (Anna Griffin, 2015)
People who wish to get back on their feet should have the chance, while the people who don’t should not be supported in anyway. I believe that the support for those who do not want to get back on their feet is one of the leading causes for the homeless situation. The beds and the support that our community offers doesn’t just go to those in need it goes to those who don’t care about making a better life for themselves. We should put an end to these wasted resources and put them towards those who are actually in need. While it might sound a little heartless, I propose that instead of offering recourses to anyone who wants them we as a community are a bit more selective about who gets them, such as oral drug testing before they are given a bed to sleep on or a free meal. Drug testing and required work hours before they are given food stamps, even if it is just a couple hours of volunteer work. For those with drug issues group therapy should be offered and they should have the option to receive the help they need but if they are not interested recourses should not be wasted. A location should be opened that provides clothing for interviews and doubles as an address for those looking for a job to put on their resume and use for important mail. There should be a system in place that works harder at getting people back on their feet and less on supplying freebies.
Homelessness is a subject that I hold very closely. My dad was actually homeless for a few months when I was a kid and living with my grandmother. He lived in a tent in some forest area off the side of a highway. I would never wish that situation on anybody. I know that with enough effort, and a change in the way we handle homeless people, more of the homeless can be put back to work and earn a living.
“Myths About Homelessness.” Portland Rescue Mission. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.
“Homelessness Statistics.” The City of Portland, Oregon. N.p., 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.
Roth, Sara. “6 Reasons Why Portland’s Homeless Crisis Is at a Breaking Point.” KGW. N.p., 15 July 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.
Griffin, Anna. “Our Homeless Crisis.” OregonLive.com. The Oregonian, 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.