Housing advocates point fingers, shoot selves in foot
Political staffers blamed housing advocates who blamed social service advocates who blamed homeless advocates for screwing up momentum for housing resources in Portland.
One group said the other groups weren’t tough enough, while another organization said other groups were being too soft. One group of people on the streets said being homeless was enough to qualify them to understand how to end homelessness, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
Government insiders scoffed at the idea, and said that the only way Portland could think about ending homelessness would be by giving complete control over to civic authority.
One of the leading organizations on homelessness couldn’t give its viewpoint because it had to go to an internal committee and missed the entire debate in the first place. Another group’s members said it was too risky to get involved, as long as they kept their budget intact. “Screw everyone else,” one member said.
While homeless and housing advocates squabbled, it’s not exactly clear who was in charge, or if anyone should be, several other interest groups mobilized for their own cause and are expected to have a revenue building measure on the ballot this November.
New homeless tours available today
Local non-profits hoping to piggyback on a growing number of interested social work students and young people from around the region have created a new tourism program aimed at watching homeless people in Old Town.
The new program called “Homeless Watching” will be aimed at high school and college immersion groups, social work and anthropology programs.
The program includes eating lunch with the homeless at local soup kitchens, sleeping out on the streets or on a local social service agency’s floor, and doing roundtables about how it must feel to be homeless.
“It’s a great way to raise awareness,” said one local executive director. “We’re partnering this year with the birding community and giving students binoculars and notepads and asking them to observe the homeless in new ways. We will also be doing a scavenger hunt and teaching a class on equity and white-guilt called, ‘Homeless people: Should we feel bad?”
Homeless residents of Portland have responded by offering tours of Portlandia “as seen on TV.” The tours begin at Stumptown Coffee and offer a wonderful opportunity for visitors to view hipsters in their natural habitat. Participants learn skills such as making sure their food is local, pedigreed, and organic, as well as how to walk slowly and hold up traffic. “For an extra fee, your guide will put a bird on you,” says local guide Soup Can Sam.
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