City Council Testimony, Oct 3, 2018

Elliott Young, Annette Johnson, Leo Rhodes, Kimberley McCullough and Sarah Iannarone

5 Things the City Can Do to Respond to Homelessness with Compassion

 

1)   Develop a robust group of first-responders who are trained to deal with mental health and addiction crises who would be the ones to connect people living on the streets with services.  These first-responders could also address livability issues like needles in parks, garbage in neighborhoods, and low-level theft if victims did not want to involve the police.

 

2)   Declare a moratorium on sweeps of homeless camps. Until we can offer adequate alternatives, sweeping people from one part of the city is just an expensive and harmful way to deal with the housing crisis.

 

3)   Provide basic services for hygiene for people living on the street, including restrooms, water, and garbage disposal.  Many of resident complaints stem from the lack of adequate infrastructure for people living on the streets. Addressing basic needs will solve a great part of the problem.

 

4)   Legalize temporary camps on city-owned property, as well as providing services to make them clean, safe and viable. There are already successful examples of city-sanctioned camps so let’s expand  this model.

 

5)   Track arrests of homeless people, publish data on a city website, and hold responsible parties accountable for achieving a drastic reduction of arrests.  We should not have to rely on the investigative journalism of the Oregonian to learn basic facts about how the city deals with its homeless population.

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Vote, Vote, Vote

Election Day is approaching and there are a few key races this year where this issue of homelessness is at the center, one being Portland's City Council election and the other being the race for governor.  Please take the time to familiarize yourself with the candidates proposals for addressing homelessness and vote for the people who advocate compassion over policing.  


Ballot measures 102 and 26-199 are important efforts to raise funds to create affordable housing in the state, and we all know that without affordable housing we will have more and more people living on the streets.


On Monday, a small group of us met with some of Mayor Wheeler's staffers and Marc Jolin, director of the Joint Office on Homelessness.  We agreed to work together on guidelines for self-governing homeless villages so that people can multiply the effective and proven models of R2D2, Hazelnut Grove, Kenton Village and Dignity Village.  It became clear to us that neighbors like yourselves, local business owners, and the homeless themselves will have to be the ones leading the innovative solutions.  After all, except for Kenton Village, all of the other successful villages were started by homeless people on their own initiative. As the saying goes "If the people lead, the leaders will follow."


Domicile Unknown: Multnomah County 2017

Finally, the annual report Domicile Unknown was released by Multnomah County and Street Roots.  It documents the 79 people who died while experiencing homelessness in Portland in 2017.  Since 2011, at least 438 homeless people have died. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if people had adequate shelter and medical care.  We as a community are killing our neighbors through neglect.

Let's get out there and make a difference!

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