It's not suprising to me that homelessness is on the rise in central Oregon. With the price of housing over there, you'd have to be rich to not be homeless.
I don't think that there are any barriers between the services and the people who need them when it comes to being homeless. The people simply just don't want to put forth the effort to seek out those services if they are not taking advantage of them. Most of those services require that you stay away from drugs and alcohol, and those addicted homeless people are not willing to do that. I am not categorizing all homeless people as being addicts, however those that don't pursue the services provided for them are addicts. Homeless families without addiction seek services such as the Salvation Army and Union Gospel Mission. Those that stand on the side of the road with a cardboard sign, in an area that has services, are just too addicted and lazy to pursue services. They'd rather look for a handout that doesn't require changing their lifestyle.
There are barriers for people seeking services. Most shelters require a negative TB test before allowing people in. People seeking services must find a location that offers this test for free. Shelters generally don't run the test because it involves sharps and requires medical personnel. It takes several days to run a TB test, so people seeking services are left to fend for themselves during this time.
Another barrier is finding resources. It's not like a homeless person can easily search the web for services. Who do you contact when you have suddenly lost your home and job? Where do you go? Remember most communities in Oregon do not have the level of services that Portland does.
Without social connections people can be left without many options, especially in rural areas. I clearly remember a family living in their car at Taylor Lake in The Dalles. The parents were out of work and trying their bests to provide food to their children. Homeless services need to be made easily available and accessible.
Many people that become homeless, a vast majority in my area, don't become homeless overnight. They don't lose their house overnight. They have more then enough time to save enough gas money or money for a bus ticket in order to get to an area that has free services. I do not live in the Portland area. But if I was losing my house and job, I would prepare for this in some way and get to a larger area that has services and a larger job market. No, homeless people can't surf the web, but they sure can locate a phone book at any phone booth and look up a phone number or address for services. If my back was against the wall, I was on the verge of being homeless or actually was homeless, my primary goal everyday I woke up would be to seek out services to help get me back on my feet. Resources are only as hard to find as the effort, or lack there of, the homeless person is willing to put in to find those services. In the rare event that a homeless person is out in the middle of nowhere homeless, I have to ask the question 'how did you get to the middle of nowhere? Couldn't you have used the money and resources that got you to nowhere to get to a city that has services to help you?' I volunteered for a long time at the Salvation Army and Union Gospel Mission in Salem, and I know for a fact that once you get to an area that has either of these two organizations, which is every medium to large city in Oregon, it's not hard at all to get services from them, as long as you are willing to abide by the rules; no drugs, no alcohol, put in effort to get back on your feet. These organizations do TB tests for free, and yes you have to go on the street for a few days until the test comes back, but if people were only on the street for days only, we wouldn't have the homeless epidemic we are currently in. People are homeless for a lot longer then days, they are homeless for months, sometimes years. These are the people that are addicts and don't want to change, they just want to stand at a busy intersection with a cardboard sign, looking for free money from people that think the sign holder is homeless for reasons totally beyond their control, which is not true, at least not entirely.
Whatever is said about homeless today, will be different in the future if our present economic problems continue to spiral out of control, the subject of homelessness is no longer that person we don't know, but the people we do know, our friends and family and even ourselves. I know because I remember the 1970-1980 "recession" and went from being one of those "nice people" who helped others, to being one of "those people". In the 1960's I thought poverty was a "meaningful experience" that those of us born White and Middle class could never have. I came of age in southern California with a booming economy and opportunity all around me. It was easy to get a job within a day or two. All one had to do was show up at the employment department and ask for a job. No resume required, no criminal check, no credit check, not even a high school diploma. Anyone willing to work would put to work that day or the next working day. I was totally unprepared for the reality of economic collapse.
The recession taught me, poverty is not a personal choice when there is no opportunity and it takes at least 5 years "professional" shoe shining experience to be referred to shoe shining Job. Poverty is not meaningful, but destroys us emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, and it destroys families and the future of both young and old. Today's retired people who had good paying jobs before the recession, and poorly paying jobs after the recession, have very low Social Security benefits, and those who came of age when we could not assimilate them fast enough, lost their opportunity for the good life, or learned to become good liars, to employers who thought anyone out of work for more than 6 months, wasn't serious about working, or something was so wrong with a homeless person, they shouldn't be hired. They abandoned their families so their wives and children could get help, and went into the hills. Some never made it back to main stream society, and unless you have had the experience, you can not understand why. It is such a different reality from the one you know. I am praying if things get that bad again, we remember the Great Depression and all the ways to help people, instead of facing the denial and almost complete social breakdown, of all charity organizations running in the red, and serious failure to meet human needs. The time to talk about this is now, when we speak of the homeless we have today. Now is when to plan and put systems in order, not when everything is out of control, as it was during the last recession.
I am more than willing to participate on any committee addressing this problem, or to speak to any group wanting more information. We have laws on the books to protect an affluent way of life, that seriously hurt the poor. Government services and extended services such as public transportation, must not operate as individual unites, shrinking to survive budget cuts, but must co-ordinated to work together to diminsh the problem of economic collapse, so it does not spin out of control like it did last time. We seriously need to look at housing laws, especially public housing policies that prevent family from helping family.
And when my daugther asked me, why I wasn't cooking the food we had, and wasn't burning the wood we had, I slumped to the floor in front of the cold wood stove, holding my head in my hands, as my mind clawed the walls of my sanity. I realized, I was having that experience of poverty that I thought I could never have, and I realized why those funny old people who had gone through the Great Depression, still horded. Poverty is not a meaningful experience, but a very destructive one. It destroys individuals, families and communities.
Like a prisoner once told me, you may think shit taste bad, but until you eat it, you don't how bad". Those who experience the reality of being on the bottom and marginalized by our laws and policies, and the homelessness, and loosing everything, even hope, are not the ones represented in government. And the "nice people" who mean well, can not represent them, because they just don't know the reality of how people become so bad off and how hard it is to function at this level. And when these "nice people" become one of "those people" they are the least apt to know how to manage. It is so overwhelming, we can expect the "nice people" to become dysfunctional and the toll on their families will be great. This economic problem will become a long term social problem, unless we manage much better than we did last time.
During the recession I participated in Housing Now, and while fund raising, a visiting professor angerily yelled at me. He said the homeless do not need housing, but freedom. He was angry that the US which should be the leader of democracy and freedom, drove the homeless away and did not even give them the freedom of staying near the cities that could provide them jobs. That is when I fully realized our attitude toward the homeless is one built on afluence. Poor countries do not hold the same attitude about homelessness and people doing what have to do. We do not allow our homeless people the freedom to do what they have to do, to have a chance of getting a job and making their lives better. We caste them out and force them into hiding. This is not freedom and equal opportunity, add to this all the files we hold on people, and how we have started judging people by what is in a file, and how we marginalize those with something bad in a file, and this is not the great country we once were, but a country dehumanized by its afluence, and the technology to keep records on everyone. Fortunately I am not one of them, but to my horror I have seen how many laws and policies are working against people who are just trying to have a decent life.
In the forest on the west edge of bend, there is garbage everywhere. you can find campsites, little tent communities out there. and garbage. its a total mess . its ironic that in a town with many, many vacant houses, the people who built them are too poor to live in a house themselves. until there is an adequate recognition that these invisible people exist and must survive, our immediate physical surroundings will continue to be degraded by these people out government would prefer to pretend do not exist.
I read the linked article about homelessness in Bend. I think it is a little silly to say, "the greatest contributor to homelessness is lack of affordable homes" and to pin everything on the out of control real estate market. Bogus. That is the fallacy of the excluded middle.
A quick look at apartment rent in Bend yields available apartments as low as $650 a month. That's a fraction of a mortgage payment, and about half a month's pay at the minimum wage.
What was the cause of homelessness before the real estate boom? Why have we always had homelessness?
If you want to solve the problem, you need to accurately identify the causes.
I would like to know from the panelists how long the average person is homeless who is not a drug addict. Is homelessness a transitional situation or a chronic situation for these people? Do they need a bridge back to security or do they need continual support?
These things also need to be known to help identify solutions.
?Forty-three percent say the reason they are homeless is because they couldn?t afford rent,? Senecal said.
That, from the linked story about Bend.
Why can't they afford rent? What sort of programs are available to help people with rent and utilities and food?
Oregon needs to work hard to attract employers who pay well. That will go a long way toward alleviating homelessness.
Monaco Coach laid off 200 workers recently.
Nearly 500 workers in related companies lost their jobs during the American Axle strike.
Newmar RV recently laid off 20 percent of its workers.
These are all in the Bend area, are they not?
The fast growing segment of low-income families are the working poor. These are people who have jobs, albeit low-wage jobs, but cannot keep up with the cost of living in Central Oregon. They are a hidden poor, hidden homeless - who live in cars, live with relatives and friends, or in the hotels. They are not just on the streets or in the camps. A ten-year plan should help alleviate all types of homeless. And it could if each of the governing bodies in the area adopt and encourage it.
I was for two years homeless, but not in the sense that the word usually calls to mind. I had just retired from the Army, sold my house in Alaska, packed up my new Honda CR-V with clothing, camping gear, musical instruments and other personal effects, and headed out on the road. I was searching around the country for possible places to settle. I stayed in campgrounds, hotels, and with friends, family, and sometimes even with some kind strangers.
I had an income, but I didn?t have a job or a home. All I had was a UPS Store mailbox. This was a big problem for me when I was stopped at the US border after having driven through Canada from Alaska. The Border Patrol officer became very frustrated and annoyed with me when I could not give him a fixed address for where I lived. Consequently, I became angry that this was even an issue, and I threatened to file a complaint. They eventually let me go, but my point is that to be labeled as homeless, even in a nontraditional sense, can result in being hassled. I realized that there is a strong negative attitude towards people in nonconforming situations. I can only imagine what indignities the true homeless people of Portland must endure at the hands of those who seek to judge them.
Melodeon, thank you for sharing your experience. I'm curious -- why did you decide to live without a home? I'd love to hear more of your story.. Thanks, Sarah.
Hearing your topic, I was reminded of a time during my childhood that I spent homeless. My Mother, not having a place to take my brother and I, took us to a camp ground and told us we were "camping" for the summer. It wasn't until years later that I realized other people who camp don't wash their clothes on the rocks in the river, and exist on poached venison. My strongest memory was of wanting to have a hamburger, or really anything that wasn't venison. ^^
I have mixed feelings about that time in my life. I am impressed with her resourcefulness and the protection we received from the homeless stigma because of that, but also, I feel a bit deceived that she didn't just tell us what was going on. Everyone else that came and went in the camp ground knew, but my brother and I were just oblivious.
When my husband & I were camping at Tumalo State Park near Bend several years ago, we met a boy aged about 12 who was with his family (mom, dad, couple other kids) and he told us openly that they would be looking for a new place to "camp." Seems they had been staying with some other family but had to leave, it was summer so they had been moving from campground to campground until they were at the maximum time allowed (usually 2 wks). He didn't realize what he was telling us was that they were homeless.
One of the unnoticed parts of the homeless issue is the kids. Our local high school newspaper (Taft High, Lincoln City) recently published a series of articles highlighting the numerous students who were living a homeless life, unknown to others at school except trusted counselors and teachers. Most had intact families but not the money to stay housed, clothed and fed. The families stay with friends or camp, do whatever they can to get by. The kids have to try and get enough sleep and look presentable for school without letting their peers catch on, while attempting to get an education. We all need to remember it takes so little strife to land where these citizens have. In our town filled with million-dollar vacant homes, more than half the elementary school children qualify for free lunches. That's what a tourist economy provides for family-wage jobs.
Thanks octavia for your story. It is heartbreaking to think what your mom must have faced in that summer to provide for you and your brother.
+ The subject of homelessness invokes a gamut of opposing views from people. I also, am not sure what I think. Part of me says---they got there themselves. Another says---even if true, we all have to fix it. But what would be helpful is some statistics to settle the blame questions? Are there accurate statistics to say why people become homeless, not just anecdotes: economy, high rent, mental health, etc... . Not just anctedotes from the homeless either. Some real indepth investigations.
+ Is it a certain kind of person? Does this really happen that easily to anyone? If so, what percentage of anyone? I certainly realize it doesn't matter who, or what, or if, anyone is to blame, but it would be helpful to know. If those questions are cleared up, we would have an easier time fixing the problem!
+ From my view, many think it is a choice rather than circumstances. Perhaps not a choice to become homeless, but a choice to stay that way. Is this true? If all the homeless were given homes, how many would actually want them? Is there something more complex, then simply the lack of a home, in the homeless culture. You have to assume that some people might like being homeless. Sometimes it even seems appealing to me. Portland has an independent spirit---do parts of the culture actually foster homelessness? It probably sounds absurd, but I am actually serious!
I was homeless in Portland for about 2 years, when I was 19 and 20 (a little over a decade ago). I spent most of the nights during that time sleeping on church porches and under bridges in Portland, though I stayed in shelters part of the time as well.
My life now is completely different, and most people I know would probably never suspect that I ever lived that life, though I'm not ashamed to tell anyone. I'm now established in a comfortable middle-class lifestyle: my wife and I both have full-time jobs and together bring in a six-figure income. I'm on my way to getting my Bachelor's degree in Nursing at a local university. You never know who around you may have experienced something like this...
I met a lot of different people while I was on the street, and it seemed like just about everyone I met had different reasons for becoming and remaining homeless. Solutions to homelessness will need to take a wife range of circumstances into account, and will probably require a range of coordinated approaches.
When I was first homeless, I kind of idealized it, much like your interviewee (Shaggy Simpson?) indicated: there's definitely a certain romantic freedom of individual expression available when you are disconnected from all the obligations involved in maintaining a "normal" life.
For me, that idealistic view of homelessness lasted most of the way through my time on the street. My experience with the kindness of strangers led me to see the value of having resources with which to offer help to others, which helped motivate me to start establishing a more mainstream life...
Sometimes I still find myself feeling a sense of claustrophobia about the commitments in my life now. The open road still has a strong appeal to me. Even now, I sometimes hitchhike somewhere just to remind myself that my life now is a choice, not a trap in which I'm caught.
I am wondering how the impact of "If we build it they will come" effect
has on the number of homeless in Portland. We have a great number of soup
kitchens that support the homeless. I heard that up and down the west coast that Portland is the place to be if you are homeless. Its easier here because
of all the support. How many of the homeless are from Portland and how many
are from elsewere. Are we supporting the issue for the west coast..?
One major recurring experience I had while on the street was the disdain with which I was viewed as a homeless person. So many people assume that a homeless person is lazy, addicted to drugs, stupid, and dishonest. Even though none of those things was true, the condemnation of other people and the loss of meaningful social interaction during that time hit my self-confidence in a way that sometimes is apparent even today.
In response to the on-air discussion just now of my earlier comment:
I know that the experiences of many people were much harder than what I experienced. For one thing, it is much easier to be homeless if you're under 21... there are many more resources available.
On the other hand, I did experience a lot of the hardships of the street. I have many memories of huddling through a long winter night with little or no shelter from the wind and rain or snow and only a single blanket. Even in the middle of that, I often felt like the trials I faced were for my own good... a kind of ascetic character-building or something.
pick a suitable location. build basically glorified shipping containers without the formaldahyde, insulated and heatable (external boiler, warm water heat), limited hot water per day, lights
and lockable. computer register to weed out destructive people, give them a key. provide community kitchen (served hot meals). evaluate expense of personal shower/toilet vs community.
should be doable for very small price. that way you give the people some privacy, some security, some dignity, and you can manage it properly to even "develop relationships."
now what are the usual bureaucratic reasons for not doing this?
i'm a little surprised that in joining the conversation this late there is no mention of mental illness and its effect on homelessness. As a volunteer at a local non profit that helps people get off the street, i've seen that the state of care for folks who are mentally ill is in shambles. During the eighties under Reagan when mental hospitals were closed and patients turned out to fend for themselves a new system should have been created to care and assist in the best manner. this never happened and we are living with that wreckage. Many mentally ill folks will never be able to consistently hold down a job. Some will, and they need to be supported in order to continue to do so. Just last month, Cascadia Behavioral Services was on the brink of collapse. A temporary fix was made, but I don't believe there is anything permanent in place.
For those who believe that homeless people are all lazy drug addicts, as a first step to understanding i suggest picking up a copy of "Street Roots" and reading it for the next few month. its an inexpensive way to get a better understanding of homelessness in our community.
It was wonderful to hear from Christina Riggs, Director of the La Pine Community Kitchen and Richard Berg, President of the Congregation for Nativity Lutheran Church in Bend speaking about the real issues and challenges facing people who are homeless or facing homelessness in Central Oregon. The Bethlehem Inn is also an excellent hands on organization in our area. Task forces, meetings, work plans, etc are a great way to keep people in poverty at arms length and think you are doing something about the problem. Congratulations to the organizations who are directly touching peoples lives.
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