I received a request to explain my ideas about how to end homelessness in Portland. The comment was sent by an anymous source to my blog. But what is more interesting is the fact that the individual claims to be living in Washington State.
So...before I write-out my ideas, I want to point out that I am only focusing on Portland and the State of
Back in 2004, I stood on the Burnside Bridge in downtown Portland and had a very interesting conversation with Paul Carlson. And for all I know, the above-mentioned comment may have actually originated from him.
(Since the person chose to send the comment anonymously, I consider myself free to assume the identity of
Mr. Carlson arranged for me to move into a high-rise in downtown Portland. But he didn't count on what would happen to me after that. That particular piece of property was mainly inhabited by vulnerable individuals. The original idea behind that building was to provide a decent, safe and low-cost home to people who otherwise would be out on the street.
It was a nice place...and at first, I really thought that it would work. But as time went on, I began to realize
that what was supposed to be a safe harbor for good people was also a haven for thugs and drug dealers.
Argue all that you want to, you who were directly involved in the criminal activity that was ongoing during
that time. Jump up and down, wave your arms and protest. Go ahead and deny everything. I was there and
I know exactly what was going on. When it came down to a few serious threats on my life, I left. It was my right and privilege to protect my well-being. And I did.
I haven't been back to that building since.
Did I try to get assistance before I left that property?
Yes, I did. But the only response that I got was a terse, "You're already indoors now and we have other people to deal with. Stop complaining and appreciate what you have. Goodbye."
I was left on my own and in the end, I made my own decision...and left.
The lack of backup support had a direct bearing on what ultimately happened to me.
Which leads me to my first point: Whatever Portland decides to do to eradicate homelessness in the future,
if it doesn't follow through and support every single individual that it pulls off the street...for at least a
year after the fact...then all bets for a successful, permanent transition...are off.
The City cannot just walk into the situation with a pocket full of money, hook'em, house'em and then forget'em. Every homeless person will require that commodity that is more precious than money: TIME.
Yeah, and I can already see some City Poobahs just rolling their eyes. But I'm right and it is the truth.
Every person in the line will require a time-consuming, personal touch. Just handing over a form and
expecting a person to find a reasonable place to live is foolish. Transitioning a homeless person (or a
family) from life on the street to permanent housing isn't as simple as a pigeon finding a new hole.
Buddy up or give up, Portland. The homeless people in the process of becoming residents will require
plenty of attention. Take my words to heart and work it out or deal with the tents and everything that
is going on with the current human mess in your City.