Tag Archives: Human Solutions

Poverty figures unlikely to change course anytime soon

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

Census figures released Tuesday put on paper what many of us have known for a long time. Times are tough, getting tougher.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s figures, the nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 increased from 14.3 percent in 2009 to 15.1 percent — the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate and the highest since 1993. The Bureau estimates that more than 2.5 million entered poverty in 2010, totaling more than 46 million Americans. It is the fourth consecutive increase in that figure, and the highest number since poverty estimates have been published.

Oregon’s poverty rate is at 14.1 percent, essentially unchanged from 2009.

“The increase in poverty obviously means that there is a greater need for a social safety net,” said Chuck Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. “We think today’s news about the increase in the poverty rate means that both Congress and the state need to start creating a good, robust jobs program and raising the necessarily revenues to fund the public services to lift people out of poverty.”

Sheketoff said the figures were not surprising, given the severity of the recession and the anemic recovery.

“Oregon has never done a good job at reducing the poverty rate,” Sheketoff said. “And unfortunately we have no one in state government who is responsible for that.”

In 2009, the Oregon State Legislature did raise taxes to cover the budget shortfall for basic services. The 2011 legislature did not, a move Sheketoff calls ill-advised. Among the reductions this year were cuts to the employment and skills training programs and child care services for low-income parents seeking employment.

The numbers may be the highest since 1993, but the conditions are different, Sheketoff said.

“Our safety net for poor families with children was better in the early 1990s,” he said. “We had a more robust program for families with dependent children, a more robust jobs programs and skills program. We are serving a smaller percentage of the poor than we used to and we’re giving them less. The legislature wrongly scaled back the basic job opportunity and skills program. We’ve let inflation erode access and made cutbacks.” Continue reading

Two worlds from Ukraine & Somali living together under one roof in East Portland

Children from Lincoln Woods play their regular game of soccer. Photo by Jennifer Jansons

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

The sun is beginning to set on a recent Tuesday evening at the fields behind outer east Portland’s Lincoln Elementary School, and upwards of 40 young boys are playing soccer. It’s hard to count or keep track of them — they are running too fast, following a white orb of a soccer ball that moves blurrily from one side of the field to the other.

Approximately half the kids are Russian or Ukrainian; the other half are of Somali descent. Viktor Bereznay is their coach. He is tall and athletically built with close cropped dark hair, and wears sports clothes and a whistle around his neck.

He occasionally joins in the game, but mostly observes and encourages the kids, shouting “nice try” and “let’s go,” and instructing one team to “come back” to their side of the field to play defense. When a score is made, Bereznay blows the whistle and calls out the score.

For nearly two hours, they play. As the evening wears on, a group of younger Somali boys breaks off from the game and plays nearby. Soon, there is shouting.

“Hey!” Bereznay shouts. “What are you doing over there? You’re supposed to be playing soccer.”

He jogs over to the boys. “He started it,” one boys tells him.

“What did he say?” Bereznay asks.

“He said something in Somali,” the boy says. “We’re going to fight.”

“No!” Bereznay says. “No fighting.”

The boys return to the game, but they soon splinter off again. Bereznay urges them to come back again. “No more fighting anymore,” he says. “No pointing fingers. No nothing.” He waves his arms through the air as he speaks, as if to swat away any notion of fighting.

Bereznay has been teaching the boys to play soccer for the last month. “You should have seen them at the beginning,” he says. “Now they are angels.” Continue reading

Loss of low-cost housing routing poor from downtown

monopolycrop30Affordable housing for Portland’s poorest residents has declined significantly in the city center, even as more high-end housing increased.

According to the Central City Housing Inventory, released in July by the Portland Development Commission, the city center lost more than 22 percent of its lowest income housing options, but gained nearly 12 percent more in the number of units for higher incomes.

The result, according to those in the business of placing people in affordable housing, has been a shift of poverty from the central city area to outer parts of Portland and Multnomah County.

“Here in mid-county and in east county we are seeing an increasing number of people seeking low-cost affordable housing,” says Jean DeMaster, executive director of Human Solutions. “And we believe part of it is the lack of housing in the central city areas and the decrease of housing in the central city area.”

The sources interviewed for this article all point toward a growing trend: the displacement of low-income people, who can no longer find affordable housing in the central city, to other parts of Portland and Multnomah County.

The increase of people looking for housing in eastern parts of Multnomah County has been happening for the last three or four years, DeMaster says, but Human Solutions saw a “marked” increase in the last six months, corresponding with the deepening of the recession.

The inventory, published every three years, monitors whether or not the city is adhering to its “No Net Loss” policy. Passed in 2001, the No Net Loss policy establishes that the same number of rental units available to people earning 60 percent of MFI or below in 2002 would remain the same through preservation or replacement. That number is 8,286. Continue reading