Regarding “We’re losing ground; Time to charge” (Editorial in Aug. 10 Street Roots):
I have long admired Street Roots for its straightforward approach to covering the issues that most affect Portland’s homeless community. And as the new director of the Portland Housing Bureau, I was naturally very interested in your recent editorial inviting the City to “make the charge,” by tackling our current housing crisis.
I could not agree more. The time for bold, new approaches is upon us, and we must set about our work with creativity and an honest, strategic look at what is working and what is not. I have a personal sense of urgency around trying to get ahead of the economic mess that is wreaking havoc on our old housing strategies. What’s more, I am convinced that my colleagues in city government — including our elected leaders — absolutely share that sense of urgency. Indeed, these factors are what led me to accept Housing Commissioner Fish’s offer of the top job at the new bureau.
While it’s true that we face greater challenges than ever before, I have great hope. I am hopeful because in spite of the recession, tremendous progress is being made in helping those who need it the most: Portland will soon break ground on the landmark Resource Access Center that will help hundreds of homeless and formerly homeless individuals each day.
People who use a Section 8 voucher to pay their rent will have a much easier time finding a good apartment thanks to a unique collaboration between the City, the Housing Authority of Portland, and area property owners. One hundred five homeless veterans will soon have permanent homes, because housing and VA leaders here have made it a priority to change the way they do business.
And with the support of our partners, we are investing our share of stimulus funds into worthy and “shovel-ready” projects, allowing us to stretch our local dollars even further.
Can we do more? Absolutely. Do we need a comprehensive new strategic plan that reflects today’s economic realities, yet leaves room for flexibility? Of course. And can we do more to engage members of our community who most need a voice on issues of poverty? Certainly.
I am counting on Street Roots to continue to watch Portland’s housing system closely and offer insightful and challenging commentary as we move into a new era.
In the meantime, let there be no doubt: we have taken up the charge.
Margaret Van Vliet
Director, Portland Housing Bureau