Tag Archives: Safety net

Portland safety net swings in balance of city budget talks

City’s housing and homeless services play the competitive waiting game for coveted one-time appropriations

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

Looking at the housing and homeless landscape these days, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish paints a pretty grim picture.

“It’s a rising tide of need with declining resources. That’s it in a nutshell,” says Fish, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau. “We’ve got more adults and families facing homelessness, more families being priced out of the housing market. We’ve got historic vacancy rates. Unemployment is still very high. We’re now catching the foreclosure fever. We’re still in a deep recession, and we have fewer resources to meet the need. It’s a perfect storm.”

This from a self-proclaimed glass-half-full kind of guy.

That internal optimism will be needed as the city slogs forward in its 2012-13 budget “cutting” process, with all bureaus asked by Mayor Sam Adams to submit reduction proposals of 4, 6 and 8 percent. In addition to the bureau packages, the mayor has to decide how the shrunken pool of one-time money — funding allocated in each cycle by the mayor — is divvied up. Last year, that was a pool of about $23 million. This year it’s projected at about $11 million.

Of that, Fish’s Portland Housing Bureau is asking for nearly $4.8 million to pay for the city’s social safety net: short-term rent assistance, shelter and emergency services, housing access and homeownership programs, and the Bud Clark Commons. It’s not new money, but it is subject to the mayor and council’s approval, each with their own bureau budgets in play. The police bureau alone is asking for $5.4 million in one-time funding. The mayor is expected to come out with his budget in early May. Continue reading

Editorial: A message from the trenches to state reps on budget cuts

The new state budget punches a hole in the safety nets for the most vulnerable Oregonians. Street Roots breaks down a sampling of the programs being hit hardest, including support for the disabled, mentally ill and unemployed in the new edition of the paper. An important read. Below is the Street Roots editorial in the current July 9 edition of the newspaper talking about the cuts.

Oregon is faced with a $577 million hole in its General Fund through July, 2011, a hole that’s expected to grow to $2.5 billion by next year. The situation prompted one nonprofit leader to describe this year’s budget cuts as a massive wave that retreats from land, followed by a tidal wave that may completely submerge Oregon’s safety network the following year.

SR has outlined the possibly devastating cuts to human services across the state in this edition. Others paying the price include our public schools and environmental programs. All of the cuts combined will mean thousands of Oregonians living in desperation.

Desperation equals tragedy. That includes begging, borrowing and/or stealing to keep mouths fed and shelter over one’s family and friends.
The cuts to the human safety net and our schools is not only maddening, but it’s a reflection of the broken system of government that has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up puppet governments and fight wars around the world in the name of democracy. Meanwhile, back at home, our democracy is crippled by lackluster politicians and party politics, corporate greed and a Congress more concerned with squashing opposing ideologies in Iran or Turkey than truly improving Americans’ quality of life — or at least reversing its tailspin. Have we learned anything from history? Not in the least. Pathetic.

Oregon needs to hold a special session to allocate dollars from agencies not affected by the budget cuts to those in need, and to create alternative revenue streams to buffer against the coming tidal wave. That means putting dollars into schools and the human services.

Rumors have it that Democrats don’t want to rush to a special session because Republicans could hijack the process and allow for more dollars to be diverted toward corrections and public safety. Possibly. But considering we’re already kissing the ground per se, it’s time both Democrats and Republicans show some backbone and stop playing politics. Yes, it’s an election year. Yes, it’s a hard fight. Yes, things are going to get worse. But you know what? You’re our leaders, and we’re expecting you to lead. Today. Right now.

SR spent a significant amount of time with our small staff to sift through the cuts and present them to readers. As we called human service workers, non-profit leaders, budget analysts and others to get the scoop, we couldn’t help but find ourselves explicitly blurting out inevitabilities such as suicide, homicide, prison, homelessness, death, depression, etc. We found ourselves joking about something that isn’t funny at all. In fact, it’s deadly serious and makes you sick to your stomach to think about. We were coping with the fact that not only have we covered — and lived — the stark realities in the trenches for years, but we knew that with each statistic it was another individual or family that was going to have to survive in a world with no logic, a growing discrimination against them and little resources to fight for themselves. Most of these stories won’t come with a happy ending, or a day of remembrance, or even a flag draped over their coffin. But they are casualties just the same.

So we ask our statewide representatives that find themselves in these extraordinary times to lead. That’s what we elected you to do.