Sunday, February 28, 2016

War on the Homeless

The city of Gresham, Oregon has declared war on their homeless.
They have said that their homeless comes from Portland, but a recent survey found that 65 percent of the homeless in Gresham came from Gresham.
They have denied permission for the Human Solutions family shelter to be located in Gresham.
They have blocked 60 acres of property where the homeless were camped for "environmental" reasons, but offered no services or help for those forced out.
Saturday night at 7pm they went through another area and gave the homeless one hour to pack up their camps and move. One woman came to her camp in the middle of their sweep, they gave her twenty minutes to move.
Mayor Shane said that Gresham would be "compassionate" to their homeless. Where is the compassion?

It seems like they just want to move all the homeless to Portland. Take responsibility for your own, Gresham.

In the Mayor's "State of the City" speech, he mentions Our Father's House and JOIN as organizations they are partnering with to help the homeless in the city. This is true. Our Father's House is a great organization, helping certain families get on their feet. But the majority of the homeless are without children. And Human Solutions shelters more of Gresham's homeless families than OFH does, because OFH rightly focuses on only some homeless so they can better help them. JOIN is out of funding, and they are housing no one right now until more funding is released. Even then, they were able to house 75 people last year, most of which later became homeless through lack of support. JOIN is also a great organization but they are a small group compared to the size of the issue.

So Mayor Shane is depending on two groups who can help only a hundred of the many hundreds of homeless in the city. For everyone else, he uses the police to force them out of the city. It is time to offer real help, real compassion. It is time to listen to the majority of citizens who attended the Listening Session on the Homeless last year, who said that the homeless needs a place to sleep, there should be shelters. There should be real solutions, in Gresham, for the Gresham homeless.

Transcript of a portion of Mayor Shane Bemis' State of the City speech: I’ll be perfectly clear: homelessness is a bigger issue in the greater Portland area than it has been since the pioneers on the Oregon Trail moved from their Conestoga wagons into wooden structures. That’s not hyperbole; unfortunately, it is reality. It is unconscionable to me that we let our homeless subsist in shantytowns.
That is not the Gresham ethic. For years, Gresham has greeted this issue with compassion and solutions, in an environment that is short on both. This is the city where My Father’s House built a family shelter without a single dime of public money. This is a community that has consistently supported Human Solutions in their efforts to rehabilitate people to employment and self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, there are those who would sit back and believe that, for some people, camping out on our trails and in our open spaces is the best they can do. For context, let me show you what some of these “solutions” look like.
[photo montage]
Now, I feel like I shouldn’t have to say that there is obviously nothing humane or acceptable about those images. I have deeply admired Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury’s interest in, and leadership on, this issue. She has put the County’s money where her mouth is and has pledged a substantial increase in the funding available to tackle homelessness. She has also set aside a modest appropriation for Gresham, which we will use to provide a balance of social work, vocational rehabilitation, clean-up and law enforcement services, starting next month. Chair Kafoury and Commissioner McKeel, once again, thank you for your partnership. 9
This new program will add to our existing relationship with JOIN, which we have increased in recent years to move people out of homelessness. If you aren’t familiar with their work, JOIN is an organization that takes some of the toughest cases and resolves them through a housing-first model. With this combination of efforts, I am confident that we will continue to make progress in getting people housed. Now, that said, we also absolutely will not sit idly by and watch the fallout of this issue destroy our natural resources and threaten our neighborhood livability. Starting this week, we have implemented a natural resource exclusion along the Springwater Trail, just to the north of Gresham’s Southwest Neighborhood. For too long we’ve watched habitat investments in the millions be threatened by a small group of self-proclaimed “homeless constitutionalists”–whatever that means. Well, that stops now. We will be restricting a 60-acre area to any and all human activity, homeless or not, until such time as the environment can rebound. Hopefully this course of action will provide some relief for the environment, the neighborhood and provide an opportunity to get some of our most society-resistant individuals into stable housing and opportunity.
Homelessness is an overwhelmingly broad societal issue impacting communities across the nation, especially up and down the west coast. As a nation, we have a lot of work to do to change the economic, substance abuse and mental health circumstances that too often lead to homelessness, and we also need to take a close look at some of the legal restrictions that too often tie the hands of local governments to maintain health, safety and order in their communities.
Once again, I don’t want to sound uncompassionate on this issue, because I am not. I spent part of my childhood in a mobile home, and many people have it even worse than me. To be clear, my roots are modest. At the same time, I am beyond exasperated by the absurd notion that pitching tents under freeway overpasses or occupying our parks and trails is any sort of solution whatsoever. Those who believe so need to do some deep soul searching and reconnect with the sensible people they represent.
Our approach to homelessness in Gresham is, and will continue to be, compassionate, but it will not be delusional. Our Neighborhood Enforcement Team, very popular already amongst our residents, will get an extra boost, and become the Neighborhood Enhancement Action Team, or NEAT, if you will.

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