Tag Archives: Editorial

Catholic Worker legacy alive and well in Portland

Street Roots editorial Sept 14, 2012

It’s been more than 30 years since Dorothy Day died, but her spirit remains alive and well.

She was the founder and virtual personification of the Catholic Worker movement that said hospitality will triumph over hostility, and that violence isn’t necessary for, and in fact impedes, great change. It is a concept for organizing and empowering the poor that is incorporated in the foundation of many grassroots groups here in Portland, including Street Roots. Continue reading

Oregon’s new Medicaid system a beacon for nation

Street Roots editorial

Health care costs are sucking the life out of Americans.

It’s true. The United States spends more than any other country on health care: More than $2 trillion each year. That’s 17 percent of our GDP goes into health care costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and it’s on the rise.
Health care costs are rising faster than our earnings. In fact, a U.S. Department of Labor study shows that in the past decade, premiums for employment-based private insurance rose 114 percent. Small and mid-sized businesses are looking at double-digit increases in their coverage costs, which cut into earnings and employment opportunities. The cost has expanded far beyond access for many Americans who are now going without insurance, or preventative care — and without jobs. The Oregon Health Authority estimates 16 percent of the state’s population is uninsured. Continue reading

Investing in Portland safety net pays off in lives, community

Street Roots editorial:

Portland’s long-standing safety net provides a basic level of security that we all deserve. In particular, when people have a safe, stable, affordable place to live they’re better able to invest in themselves, their children and a better city for us all.

City Council’s support of the safety net is a powerful stand for Portland values. The safety net consists of critical investments.

There are several vital programs at risk in this year’s budget cycle:

  • Critical up-to-date referral services for Portland residents in need: This includes 100,000 copies of Street Roots Rose City Resource guides distributed to more than 200 organizations and institutions along with services from 211Info, which fielded 240,000 calls from people in need last year.
  • Short-term rent assistance (STRA) for people experiencing homelessness in our community: Stabilizes more than 1,300 households annually in permanent housing, freeing up hundreds of spaces in shelter and assisting hundreds more to avoid the enormous personal and community impacts of living on the streets.
  • Emergency Shelter: Provides year-round day space and shelter at the Bud Clark Commons, which last year served over 4,300 people, and offer hundreds of additional shelter beds for men and women during the winter months and during life threatening episodes of severe weather.
  • Homeownership and Foreclosure Prevention: Assists hundreds of households, especially in communities of color, to achieve homeownership and avoid losing their homes to foreclosure. Our community’s foreclosure prevention programs have helped 757 households of color protect over $132 million dollars in assets.

Beyond the numbers, what we are talking about are people’s lives. After years of recession and declining revenues, we’re no longer cutting the fat off of an institution. Instead, we’re starting to cut into the meat of an already fragile system.

We’re not just talking about a growing homeless population. We’re talking about Portland families at the end of their ropes — families trying any way possible to avoid the streets.

When a family doesn’t have access to housing, their capacity for an education, good health and emotional stability are equally jeopardized. It’s all connected. In order maintain a healthy city, together we have to invest in people. When we invest in people, we invest in hope and when we invest in hope, then anything is possible.

We recognize that difficult budget decisions need to be made, but we ask that City Hall find a way to protect the safety net. It’s in all of our best interests.

To get involved in the Portland safety net campaign to save housing and homeless services go here.
To read all that’s at stake and read the news story go here.

SR editorial: Walking beats key to keeping our streets safe

Street Roots and its vendors witness and experience both legal policies and illegal activities that play out on the streets of Portland.

That’s why when law enforcement and community groups target one neighborhood or area of the city, we see first hand how it affects a geographical area or a population of people in another. When things flare up, or there is a heavy push by law enforcement to target a specific population such as drug dealers, drug users or homeless people, it sets off a chain reaction that often times comes with consequences. Continue reading

SR Editorial: There is still time to make the right choice for veterans

Abraham Flexner, an American educator, said decades ago, “Nations have recently been led to borrow billions (now trillions) for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education.  Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization.  We must make our choice; we cannot have both.”

Having made the choice, we must be prepared to deal with the consequences. The military industrial complex speaks volumes to the choices our government has made, and so do the 135,000 American veterans who are homeless. It’s hard to comprehend the magnitude of money and lives our country has sacrificed in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. We have lost so much. Continue reading

Housing, not bullets and more training can help end the violence, death…

Street Roots editorial from the January 7, edition

“Whenever I see the police kill another homeless person, my heart cries out and I shed a tear. When is enough, enough? These people are just housing challenged. Who knows what their background may be or their chances at success in life?” Thank God I am clean and sober and now have the ability to live inside. It could have been me.”

These are the words posted this week on Street Roots’ Facebook page by former vendor Justin Dalby, a 20-something street youth who had spent most of his life in and out of prison and institutions.

This is the same Justin Dalby who a year ago was living on the streets and was getting into fights and experiencing the harsh realities of homelessness.

In fact, police officers had dropped by SR on one occasion to tell us that Justin was too aggressive and that if we didn’t find a way to calm him down, they would have to bring him in. On another occasion, the police had to subdue Justin and his pit bull in front of the SR office.

We told the police that we believed Justin could go either way, and we weren’t ready to give up on him. SR has seen far too many individuals on the streets like Justin who have lived a violent and tortured past — people who are trying to find stability in a world that has been shattered from the start. There is no logic and sometimes no place to turn for the resources needed.

Fortunately, Justin never gave up on himself. Today, he is in stable housing and working at a local gas station. He has been sober for more than a year.

What does Justin’s story have to do with the recent shooting of a homeless individual who died of gunshot wounds, or the homeless individuals who were beaten by gang members last week, or the individual who froze to death during the cold spell? Justin’s story matters because he was able to transcend homelessness and find stable housing and personal stability, unlike so many of the individuals who experienced the cruelty we have come to know as homelessness.

Despite years of public outrage and talk of improving trust, people experiencing poverty — many times dealing with a mental health issues — continue to be shot by police officers. Knowing first hand the violence that exists on the streets, we also know there has to be another way.

We also recognize that the police are working a tough beat and have recently worked to apprehend the individuals who assaulted two homeless people, and dealt with the realities of finding an individual who froze to death. It all equals trauma — trauma for the community and trauma for the police officers involved. And thousands of people experience that trauma night in and night out on Portland’s streets. The simple answer to this trauma is housing and stability.

Like Justin, and the countless souls that have found a productive and meaningful life beyond the streets, there is hope. For the ones that have died on the streets needlessly, and there are many, we have to do better. And that means housing should be the highest priority for our city. People’s lives are depending on it.

With representatives like these …

Street Roots editorial from the December 10 edition…

The federal response to the American people, both locally and around the country over the past two weeks is disturbing on many levels.

Extending the Bush-era tax to wealthy Americans in exchange for unemployment benefits is a train wreck. The deal, which exponentially benefits the wealthy far more than the middle class, cuts off billions of dollars in revenue that would give local communities the ability to maintain basic services.

As of this week, the deal between the Republicans and the Democrats does not include extensions for the so-called 99ers — the people who have been out of work so long they’ve run through all tiers of unemployment insurance. The total, after state and federal unemployment insurance has been tapped, is 99 weeks. It is estimated that there are currently between two and five million Americans that fall into this category, with the number growing as people remain unemployed. Continue reading

Editorial: Lessons in housing relocation demand change

In “Times up at the West,” (Street Roots, Nov. 12) we highlighted both the challenges and successes of the Macdonald Center to create 42 units of affordable housing in downtown Portland. They’re doing so by demolishing a 27-unit, run-down 100-year-old building now housing extremely poor and vulnerable people. The project is billed at $10 million.

The move means more than two-dozen people have, or will have to relocate to other housing in the city. Unfortunately, with only 60 days notice given in early October, some of the most vulnerable of Portland’s housed population is at risk of becoming homeless on Dec. 1. In this edition, relocation expert Martha Gies puts into perspective the complexities of these moves, and the myriad obstacles involved.

During our investigation we found a series of missteps that have led to the unfortunate circumstances. The Oregon Housing and Community Services seemed to be asleep at the wheel after Street Roots discovered that an agreement between the state agency and the Macdonald Center called for giving people 180-day notices, not just 60-day notices. (The Macdonald Center did send a letter nearly 2 years ago giving tenants information about the upcoming relocations, but no specific timeline or date was given as to the point of eviction.)

Sources also tell SR that the Macdonald Center, uninitiated in the relocation process, did not hire a professional relocation specialist until we began our investigation into the matter in mid-November.

The City of Portland for the most part has remained on the sidelines, while already cash-strapped non-profits work frantically to get people from the West into housing with very little resources.

We call for a time-out.

Maybe it’s possible that everyone at the West will find housing. With the recent hire of a relocation specialist and the partnerships created with local non-profits, we would like to think that all the residents of the West will have a warm place to celebrate the holidays: that despite the lack of oversight by the state and bureaucratic missteps, everything will be all right in the end. But when affordable housing’s best and brightest bring people so perilously close to the streets, we’ve got problems.

We believe in the Macdonald Center. The organization delivers top-notch, award-winning services to the elderly and low-income people of the region. The project will create safe and clean housing units for people currently living on the streets, a much-needed addition to the neighborhood.

The state and the city should work with any Macdonald Center residents unable to find adequate housing by the Dec. 1 eviction date, so that they will be allowed to continue living there until such housing is obtained.

Likewise, the state and the city need to close the loopholes that contribute to these circumstances by requiring that any affordable housing project mirror federal law to require the full relocations of people currently living in low-income housing. Now that we know the system’s faults and consequences, we have to fix it. There are lives hanging in the balance.

SR editorial: Time to stop our own victimization

Advocates for the homeless, including people on the streets, have a tendency to fall prey to becoming victims and responding to any number of crisis situations that unfold in our city in a scattered and sometimes divisive way. Be it criminalization issues, lack of housing, treatment, police brutality, etc., etc.

It’s not a good place to be.

It’s mostly the result of constantly facing trauma. Be it someone who is living outdoors with the rats and the crows, or individuals working on the front lines who deal with the secondary trauma day in and day out, until it becomes their own. Continue reading

Levy, bond: The time is right to make a bold move

For two consecutive editions of the newspaper Street Roots has called for a housing levy or bond in the Portland region.

Also read: Region must work for affordable housing levy from the Nov 13. issue, and Push for housing levy coming from the grassroots by Amanda Waldroupe.

It’s time to stand up for affordable housing and homeless services in Oregon.

It’s not just about the thousands of people experiencing homelessness in the region, it’s not that simple — it’s much bigger picture than this.

Oregon, like many states around the country is not recovering as quickly as projected from the impact of the recession, far from it.

The unemployment rate in both Portland and around the state continues to hover in the double digits, while estimated hunger rates in the state have skyrocketed. This month U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that more than one in eight Oregon households have struggled to put food on the table over the past two years.

But it’s not enough to say that people are becoming homeless at alarming rates, or that the current economical environment hasn’t affected every sector of our society.

Common folks across the board are dealing with a combination of shaky predictions and risky outcomes that affect the future of their workplaces and families livelihoods.

The combination of job loss and the complex revenue streams that create affordable housing in Oregon has led to serious strains on our system. We would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t recognize as a community that some of those infrastructures are on the verge of breaking — the affordable housing and homeless front is one of them. Which in good times only affects a smaller portion of society, but in today’s climate, affects everyone.

Through our news coverage, Street Roots is able to connect with a spectrum of the nonprofit, foundational and government sectors along with people who are relying on these networks, for its sources. And we’re not hearing good news.

In fact, from everything we’re hearing, unless there’s a cataclysmic turn of events, 2010 is going to be a very hard year for many nonprofits working with people in poverty, and some will fall over.

That’s exactly why right now is the perfect time to build a movement across class lines, and tailored interests for not only an affordable housing stream locally, but nationally as well.

It’s a given that locally we need a bond or a levy for affordable housing for many people to survive. The question is where will the leadership and the funding for such an endeavor come from? Beyond housing and homeless advocates, it will take a broad base of labor, business, and government support to make a bond or a levy successful. It won’t be easy.

Nationally, housing and homeless advocates along the West Coast are standing up in unison to demand that Federal funding for housing and homelessness be returned to its rightful state — $54 billion short of what we spent on housing in 1979. (See page 12).

While many groups are standing up and pushing these ideas, many more stay out of the fight when it comes to building a larger movement for affordable housing and homelessness, and having these kinds of discussions out in the open. We think those times have changed, and it’s time to build a movement that supports all of our needs, as a community and as a society.

Creating a lasting revenue stream locally and restoring federal funding at the national level are the most critical steps we can take to make this dream a reality. Until then, we are fighting a losing war.


Editorial: Region must work for housing levy

Ever wonder why so many people are experiencing homelessness in Portland, or why the panhandling debate never seems to die? It most certainly has something to do with the economy, but it also has something to do with the lack of ongoing revenue and affordable housing units available to low-income working people.

Our sister city to the north, Seattle, just overwhelmingly passed (63 percent) a housing levy for $145 million over a seven year period. Most of the levy, $104 million, will go toward producing and preserving 1,670 apartments for low-income individuals, while another $4 million will go to more than 3,000 individuals and families in need of rent assistance.

It doesn’t stop there. More than $6 million will go towards purchasing land for affordable housing, with $14 million going toward operations and maintenance for affordable rental units and another $9 million going for homebuyer’s assistance.

The levy not only provides homes for people experiencing homelessness and poverty, it also goes to create an ongoing revenue stream for jobs and construction projects in the region.

All for $17 per $100,000 of assessed property value annually. That means for most Portland homeowners, they would be contributing $34 to $68. That might be the same amount you find yourself donating to a local non-profit to help feed, cloth or house an individual. Why not put that money toward something that will house thousands of people?

Street Roots realizes there are barriers both locally and at a state level concerning the tax structures and how money will be allocated. We also realize there are many competing interests, ranging from the schools to human services and the arts. At the end of the day, all of these things – schools, human services and the arts would benefit from a revenue stream dedicated to improving the quality of life by providing a warm and safe place for individuals and families to call home.

The region has excellent leadership at a government level when it comes to helping secure funding for people experiencing homelessness and poverty. In the past year, both city and county government have been engaged at one level or another in helping maintain our fragile safety net for the area’s poor. They’ve done more with less and should be commended for their efforts.

In a time when unemployment rates, hunger and homelessness are at an all-time high both locally and throughout Oregon – we have a responsibility to help maintain the basic needs of our citizens – not just this year, but for many years to come.

The recent passing of the housing levy in Seattle gives us hope. Hope that even in hard times people can pull together and find a way to do the right thing – even if that means paying $17 to $100 a year for the areas most vulnerable citizens.

Street Roots believes the political will exists to pass a levy or a tax locally for affordable housing. We’re hoping that together as a community, we can make that happen in 2010.

Editorial: Police tactics undermine city’s work

For years, St. Francis dining hall has been more than a place to gather for a meal. It is that rare plot of serenity and community for people dealing with poverty and homelessness. That was all shattered a few weeks ago when a team of police officers entered, through opposite doors, with a camera crew from the television show “Cops” and began filming as they looked for a suspect whom they were told by staffers was not there.

Recently, people waiting in line for a meal at Blanchet House were confronted by a plain-clothes officer who began asking them to identify a person in a picture. He also asked them for their identification, and ran them through the system. They were checked for criminal activity, and one person was arrested and then released after it was found he had a warrant for failure to appear in court. Staffers there say the questioning and ID check is not uncommon for their customers waiting outside for a warm meal.

And for months, the police have targeted Sisters of the Road Café as a nuisance area, compiling complaint calls from a two-block area, which includes bars, the bus mall, and an environment well documented for drug dealing unrelated to Sisters’ 30-year operation. Police are now in negotiations with Sisters to gain concessions for access to the café and its population.

Continue reading

Opportunity awaits us at every corner

Editorial from the Sept. 18 edition.

The world is a very daunting place. From war to health care, the environment to the economy, and the H1N1 flu – people are feeling the squeeze. Locally, it’s no different. From the front page story on this edition of Street Roots to unemployment rates in Oregon to young Oregonians coming home in body bags; like we said, it’s a daunting place.

Saying that, we also live in a beautiful city, among amazing and innovative people, rich and poor, with a will to make the world we live in a better place.

Both big and small contributions are being made daily to make the city and region we live in a healthy and sustainable environment. From Metro’s stand on urban sprawl to the Portland Trail Blazers’ “Make It Better” Campaign, from the Reed College students raising money for sex trafficking victims to the vendor selling you this newspaper, amazing things happen.

Watching many of the newly elected officials in Portland navigate the recession while trying to improve the quality of life for Portlanders and Greshamites is assuring. You get the feeling that with the political intelligence and craftiness of many of the commissioners at the county – something special is on the horizon.

Nick Fish is finding his way. It’s not easy being the housing commissioner in Portland. He has taken shots from the left, including from Street Roots, while balancing a frozen market, a housing bureau reorganization and an increase of homelessness. And still, it feels like he’s just getting his engines started and that we have yet to see what he has planned for affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness in the region.

While City Hall does feel more strange than Street Roots has ever seen it (and we can’t quite put our finger on it), there’s still great things happening. Commissioner Randy Leonard can’t seem to get enough of creating more public restrooms. And we can’t get enough of cheering him on. Sam Adams and Amanda Fritz may pull off the unthinkable on the sidewalks issues – and make both advocates and businesses happy. So, geez, it’s not all bad.

When President Barack Obama was elected into the Oval Office in November, Street Rooters, like many other Portlanders, had a sense of renewed optimism. It’s time to channel that energy. It’s time to stand up. No sitting on the sidelines. (Sidewalks are OK.)

There’s hundreds of non-profits and/campaigns working for the greater good in the region. Environmental issues, poverty, agricultural and immigrant movements, civil and human rights, there’s no shortage of great things to contribute to. No engine can ever pick up steam without a single spark to set it off. So be it pedal power or political engagement, there’s an important place for you in this town’s future.

Lastly, treat yourself right. It’s contagious. Then maybe, that daunting world, will have to take a back seat to the change we are becoming. There’s no time like now. The chance won’t come again.

Homeless by bureaucracy

A Street Roots Editorial

JCherry-1-6Take a good look at these faces. They reflect the faces of today’s homeless population – right before they become homeless.

They are not the faces of people who are lazy, addicted or chose the streets. They are among the tens of thousands of the people who are working hard, right now, to get a solid footing during the most difficult economic conditions of our lifetimes.

They are not about to become homeless because they failed, but because they system they relied upon, the one they were directed to, failed them.

By July 1, the funding need to keep the family on page 8 in housing, to offset their disabilities while they recover, to keep their children in good schools and a stable environment, will disappear, as it will for 284 other recipients of Section 8 housing assistance in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties. The blame ricochets between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD and the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority, which distributes the Section 8 assistance to the poor, disabled and elderly in the three-county region.

But lost in the numbers game both agencies play, are the families that will pay with their lives.

Continue reading