What is your community doing to address racial disparities among people experiencing homelessness?

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In Portland, a member of Right 2 Survive teamed up with Hack Oregon to create a factual and informative evaluation of the evolving SWEEPS in communities in our area. The report represents the locations, in part provided by the cities Weekly SWEEPS Report. This information is on the City of Portland.gov website. The site mentions where they intend to clean up and where to SWEEP and how to call in and report campsites.

The Homelessness/Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program (HUCIRP) reports intersections of all posted sweeps of campsites in a given week. Portland has had an average of 112.4 sweeps per month, and the amount of sweeps has increased significantly over time. With an estimated average of 5.8 (0-22) people per campsite, and an average of 24.7 sweeps per week, up to 143 people are being displaced on average each week.

http://civicplatform.org/cities/portland/neighborhood  Hack Oregon’s research with graphs and charts shows how the targeting of houseless people has increased over the last 18 months. The reports are definitely worth reviewing. This research is powerful for R2S, as we advocate to decriminalize our houseless neighbors.

https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2018/06/portland_homeless_accounted_fo.html  This is a report by the Oregonian exposing the levels of criminalization of houseless people. More ticketing for nonviolent crimes and calls for livability issues played a large role in the direction of the police over the last year. Chief Danelle Outlaw has expressed concerns that the focus of the police department should not be to respond to issues involving campsites, but to focus more on crime prevention.

Between 2015 to 2017, we have seen an INCREASE IN CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS, A 10% INCREASE IN OVERALL HOMELESSNESS IN MULTNOMAH COUNTY and INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF HOMELESS WOMEN. A staggering increase of transgender individuals of 120%. However, the Point In Time Count suggest a decrease in the numbers of unhoused African Americans by 35%. Statistics also show an increase in the numbers of older people, disabled and chronically houseless on most recent reports across the nation. The work researched here in Portland is similar to cities across the country. As houseless neighbors increase in population, so does the targeted criminalization.  One answer is the Navigation Center. It will include 120 beds where the homeless men can stay while they are evaluated and referred to appropriate services. A public/ private partnership on land from Prosper Portland to address houseless is situated in the downtown area.

League of Cities are meeting in Mayor forums to discuss creating one stop shop service centers, increased policing, taking an aggressive approach to criminalize the houseless and in some cities a movement to take ‘conservatorship’ over folks experiencing houselessness. What does this entail? Conservatorships in this instance would mean any houseless person experiencing chronic homelessness, or are in a mental health crisis or drug dependency would be paraded in front of a judge who would determine the competency of the individual. If determined they need care they will be locked involuntarily into a mental health facility, maybe subjected to evaluations and non consent medications and possible non entry into society.

All this is a troubling account of the larger picture. Housing as politically charged topic has rolled off politicians tongues for years. So has the need for more shelter beds and criminalization of ‘living and sustainability’ crimes. Crimes of existence! There isn’t a city across our country that is not building new high rises. National reports everywhere stress new growth. Where are the reports stating an upsurge in attainable housing units?  HUD, with all it’s cuts, needs to focus on meeting the needs of the most impacted by rebuilding their agenda to operating and creation of housing units. Local governments need to use their resources to work in public/ private partnerships investing in attainable housing units, employment training and opportunities to reduce the number of shelter beds and individuals on the streets.

Follow Right 2 Survive as we continue to report on our findings, examine local and national reports, and provide meaningful informative media content as these subjects continue to arise.

Lisa Fay, Board Chair