Protesters say Gov’s cuts sending us ‘back to the 1970s’

About 200 people rallied at noon today to protest Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s budget cuts to human services, saying the cuts will have a devastating effect on the state’s most vulnerable populations.

The cuts, part of a $158 million slashed from the state’s Department of Human Services, includes major reductions to programs that help seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes, and mental health programs and other services intended to help people live independent of institutions. (An in-depth look at the cuts is outlined in the current edition of Street Roots. Buy one from a vendor today!)

“With these cuts, we’re going back to the 1970s when I was first injured,” says Choi Marquardt, who neck was broken in a car accident when she was 15. “I was placed in a nursing home when I was 17.” (Photos after the cut.)

She and many others at the rally expressed the same sentiment – that the cuts threaten to take away their independence and force them to nursing homes, facilities or worse.

“I’d rather be homeless than in a facility,” said Erik Ferguson, an organizer for the event who also uses a wheelchair and relies on in-home assistance to live on his own. Ferguson works as an assistive technology specialist with Portland State University, and is able to stay in his home with help with basic living needs. It’s a critical service that goes beyond what families and neighbors can do to help people remain independent.

“It’s one thing to ask a neighbor to help out with grocery shopping, it’s another to ask them to help you take a bath,” Ferguson says, adding that the rally brought out not just people with disabilities, but families with children who need care, seniors, and special education workers. “It just didn’t seem like something we can sit still for. This is a population that needs the most help. The little bit we have, why take it out of us?”

Brigid O’Kane is a nurse and the mother of a 17-year-old daughter with autism. She said she became a nurse because of her daughter, and doesn’t want to see any child pushed out of their home into foster care.

“I see from a mom’s and a nurse’s point of view what happens when people are put into foster care,” she says. “Everybody deserves to stay in their home.”

The services being cut – and in some cases completely dismantled – are critical to people’s lives and will actually cost more in the long run.

“With the state cuts for the disabled and elderly, they’re going to end up in foster care and nursing homes, which will cost a lot more.”

Yvonne Jordan marched in the rally with her son Michael, who has Down’s Syndrome. Caring for her son has been a 24/7 responsibility for the past 37 years. Her husband passed away several years ago.

“I’m over retirement age now. I’m starting to look for resident health options for my son,” she says. Jordan calls herself lucky in being able to take care of her son herself, but says too many families could be broken up without assistance to keep the home together. “We have seen people who have been devastate,” she says. “It becomes catastrophic quickly.”

Jan Campbell worked on the Disability Project for the city of Portland before going to work for the Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services. She uses a wheelchair and lives without the aid of any in-home care. But in her role with the helpline at the county, along with her advocacy work with Disability Rights Oregon and various committees, she hears firsthand what’s being lost.

“What we’re concerned about is we’re going backward,” Campbell says.

For Marquardt, who was summarily placed in a nursing home at the age of 17, the years between her injury and today have seen greater rights and opportunities. She worked her way out of the nursing home and began volunteering and went to school. She got her degree in communications, and in 1999, at the age of 45, she got her first paying job. Today she remains a volunteer and an advocate for people with disabilities, and relies on a live-in assistant to stay independent.

The cuts will take us back 40 years, she says.

“Myself and others would rather be homeless or die than be in a nursing home,” Marquardt says.

Read Street Roots editorial on the cuts.

Several Street Roots vendors were also in the house.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl and Israel Bayer

3 responses to “Protesters say Gov’s cuts sending us ‘back to the 1970s’

  1. Thank you so much street roots for getting the REAL news out there.

  2. Pingback: Hard rain’s gonna fall: What we’re losing in the state’s latest financial fallout « For those who can’t afford free speech

  3. Pingback: Rally thanks And City’s 2011 State Legislative Agenda | Protest The Cuts

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