Mental Health Association of Portland

Oregon's independent and impartial mental health advocate

Campaign for Portland City Council – Dan Saltzman

Posted by Patrick on 1st April 2014

Dan Saltzman, City Council Candidate

Dan Saltzman, City Council Candidate

Over 3000 Portlanders are homeless tonight; despite promises and plans the number is increasing not decreasing. Stay the course or change policy and direction?

We need a change in how we address homelessness in our community. One central problem is that for years the City and Multnomah County have taken responsibility for different populations. The City was responsible for funding and programs for single-men and the chronically homeless. The County was responsible for women and families who are homeless and for mental health funding and programs.

An example of the dysfunction of this division in responsibilities is the chronically homeless population –many of whom unfortunately experience mental illness or addiction. If the City is responsible for housing the chronically homeless and the County for mental health services there are bound to be gaps in the system and there are gaps. The City and County need to work together. And they need to work with the system’s consumers and providers to address system gaps and ineffectiveness.

One of the first initiatives I have undertaken as Housing Commissioner is joint governance and joint responsibility for our homeless system and funding. In April the City and County will both vote to create this joint governance model. While I don’t believe this will solve all of the problems around homelessness this is a major first step.

Next we must work on a streamlined system for people to get the assistance they need. When a person is homeless they are naturally in crisis and the current system we have of contacting multiple providers to get on “a list” doesn’t work. It’s also just adding more stress to a person who is homeless. We need to offer a single point of entry. These plans are already in motion and I am committed to making this happen.

We also need to address two other key issues that affect homelessness: the availability of affordable housing and income levels. In just this last month I have already secured an additional $20 million for the development of new affordable housing.

Additionally, we need to address growing income disparities. Many working people just can’t make ends meet. That is unacceptable. One of the simplest ways to solve this problem for many in our community is apparent – we must raise the minimum wage. While this will take a change in state law, I am committed to advocating for this. No one should be forced to choose between paying rent and buying food. Unfortunately, with the unreasonably low minimum wage this happens too often.

www.dansaltzman.com

Eds. Note – After an election filing deadline, supporters of the Mental Health Association of Portland query all area candidates of contested races about issues important to us and post the responses to our web site. Queries and posting do not imply endorsement; the organization does not endorse candidates. Spelling and typographical errors are amended because we abhor text errors. See all candidate responses at Candidates 2014.

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“Prosper Portland” homeless solution dead on the vine, say police

Posted by Jenny on 26th March 2014

The Portland Mercury, March 26, 2014

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese

Earlier this year, Police Chief Mike Reese began showing off a flashy PowerPoint presentation around town.

To the district attorney’s office, to city commissioners and, most publicly, to the city and county officials gathered for a meeting of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC), Reese introduced “Prosper Portland,” a multi-tentacled initiative aimed at decreasing homelessness in and around the center city.

The proposal was sort of tough to get your head around.

It involved existing police efforts, but also folded in new agreements between the city and county over how camping and sidewalk-use restrictions should be enforced, and proposed use of “clean-up contractors,” who would sweep up the camps police dismantled. Reese said far more cohesion—between bureaucrats, business interests, social services organizations, cops and everyone in between—is needed to stem what he painted as a growing worry.

And then there was the involvement—already hashed out for weeks by the time Reese unveiled the proposal—of a local software firm called Thetus, which proposed taking wide swaths of city data to help Portland visualize and analyze its struggles with homelessness.

At the LPSCC meeting, as the Mercury first reported, there was widespread support for the plan. But sources within city hall say the reception there was far chillier, with some elected officials bristling that they weren’t told of the new effort and concerned about the fitness of the police bureau to lead an effort to stem homelessness.

Now, the police bureau appears to be scrapping the whole endeavor.

“As a plan, it died on the vine,” says police spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson. “Last I heard was: There is no Prosper Portland. It was never anything more than a concept.”

That’s a swift change in fortune for an effort that sources say had been in the works as early as late 2013. And, though a call to Mayor Charlie Hales‘ office hasn’t been returned, it’s likely the change in tone has to do with backlash in city hall following Reese’s announcement.

Among those voicing concerns was Commissioner Nick Fish, the city’s former housing commissioner.

“It basically came out of nowhere,” says Fish, who asked for a private meeting with Reese after reading news coverage of Prosper Portland. “I think the police got over their skis.”

Fish explained he’s in talks with a Hales aide, Jackie Dingfelder, about homelessness and sidewalk enforcement—a topic that’s been a consistently thorny for the mayor since he took office last year.

“The mayor made it very clear to me and everyone else Jackie is the leader of this effort,” Fish says. “I think she would tell you it blindsided her as well.”

But if the chief’s vision for “Prosper Portland” has exploded, it’s unclear where its component pieces will land. Simpson says the police bureau’s going to take its own steps toward better policy, stepping up foot, bike and ATV patrols and talking with the county and TriMet about uniform enforcement policies.

He didn’t think the bureau still planned to work with Thetus, the local software firm.

That was news, Tuesday afternoon, to Thetus CEO Danielle Forsyth. Forsyth’s company actually coined the name Prosper Portland. She’s been in talks with the police bureau for three or four months, she said, and the company recently hired an employee to help get the effort off the ground.

“I’m meeting with them tomorrow, and I’ll ask,” she said.

Thetus has also been in contact with the Portland Housing Bureau, overseen by Commissioner Dan Saltzman. But it’s unclear whether the firm has a place in the strategies being cooked up by Hales’ staff.

“What [Jackie Dingfelder] does with any of the component parts of Prosper Portland,” Fish says, “I don’t know.”

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Growing number of calls to Bud Clark Commons lead police to threaten chronic nuisance complaint

Posted by Jenny on 9th January 2014

The Portland Tribune, Jan. 9, 2014

Reports of drug dealing plague Old Town homeless experiment Bud Clark Commons

Musician Jon Hall, 56, was homeless from 1977 until he qualified for an apartment at Bud Clark Commons.

Musician Jon Hall, 56, was homeless from 1977 until he qualified for an apartment at Bud Clark Commons.

Portland police are concerned that the city’s highest profile public housing project is becoming unmanageable.

In early December, Portland Police Chief Mike Reese told the city’s Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman that he was considering filing a chronic nuisance property complaint against Bud Clark Commons Apartments, the $47 million crown jewel in the city’s battle against homelessness.

Two and a half years into housing the city’s 130 most vulnerable homeless people, the apartment complex is putting too much strain on police, say Portland Police Bureau officials.

The commons opened in June 2011 as a grand housing experiment. The 130 apartments in a new, seven-story LEED-certified building were set aside for those among Portland’s homeless who scored highest on a vulnerability test that predicted who, if left out on the street, would be the most likely to be assaulted or die.

The commons complex is based on a national model called Housing First. From the start, residents have known they can keep their apartments for life even if they never pay rent, and that drug use and drinking in those apartments will be tolerated if kept behind closed doors.

But, according to several residents and visitors interviewed by the Portland Tribune, a handful of those once-homeless tenants are dealing heroin and methamphetamine from their apartments. Which might explain the growing number of police calls to the commons. Police say the types of calls they are seeing, with an emphasis on public disturbances, larceny and thefts, are consistent with drug dealing in the apartments.

Coincidentally, administrators at nonprofit Home Forward, which manages the building, say that police cooperation at the building, which might have helped them keep drug dealing under control, has been reduced in the past year.

All kinds of statistics are used to measure the experiment at Bud Clark Commons Apartments. Home Forward administrators point with pride to an 80 percent success rate, measured by the number of residents who are still housed.

There is no mistaking the difficulty of housing people who have been living on the street, often for many years, most with mental illness and addiction.

In 2012, management at Bud Clark Commons issued 123 “concern forms” and took 262 pre-eviction actions against tenants. Through June 2013, 24 tenants had been evicted or left because of lease violations, and 28 had died.

In addition, building staff held more than 1,700 meetings with residents, offering a variety of activities and help ranging from mental health counseling to assistance with applying for disability benefits.

“I feel very positive about the kinds of outcomes we’re achieving and some of the bridges we’re building,” says Rachael Duke, Home Forward’s supportive housing program director.

According to Police Bureau statistics, calls for police service to the apartments and the sidewalk in front have increased from 391 in the first 10 months of 2012 to 516 in the first 10 months of 2013. For the six months ending in June 2013, an ambulance was called to the building 44 times.

Duke says a number of the calls to police are the result of mental health crises among her tenants, most of whom suffer from mental illness. Duke says she is unaware of significant drug dealing in the commons’ apartments, and suspects residents exaggerate when talking about dealing in the building.

“If we did (have significant dealing) it would feel different and we wouldn’t have the kinds of successes we’re having programmatically,” she says.

Duke says talk of a chronic nuisance property complaint, which by law can only be made by the police chief or a precinct commander, doesn’t make sense to her. She feels she has a good relationship with police officers in Old Town.

“We don’t really feel like we meet the description of (a nuisance property) because of our work with police as well as our desire to continue working with police,” Duke says.

The combination of addiction and high vulnerability makes the commons a unique place to manage. Duke says she does not know how many of her tenants entered the building as drug or alcohol abusers. The number is high because addiction is one of the criteria on the vulnerability test that determines who gets apartments there. Residents interviewed by the Tribune say a majority among them is dealing with substance abuse.

Holding people accountable

Some cities have chosen to disperse chronically homeless addicts to smaller, scattered sites rather than designate one building for the most difficult to house people. Some experts voice concern about a negative aggregation effect that can take place when buildings house one type of tenant — in this case the most vulnerable and addicted.

But the Harm Reduction model of housing exemplified by the commons — whether in one building or in scattered sites — has gained increasing acceptance among housing officials nationwide. The idea is that making few demands on the most difficult to house increases the number who will stay and decreases public money spent on them. A number of studies have shown that keeping substance abusers in stable housing saves the community money that would otherwise be spent on taxpayer-funded items such as arrests, court time, jail time, emergency room visits and temporary shelters.

Given the levels of addiction, mental illness and long-term homelessness among the people selected for housing at the commons, few are expected to stabilize their lives to the extent that they move out and find market rate or affordable apartments with public subsidy less than at the commons. In two years, only one resident of the commons has earned money from employment. Duke estimates that three or four have moved out to public housing.

All that makes Duke’s job especially challenging. Housing First favors keeping people in their apartments as long as they don’t bother other tenants. There are no requirements that residents engage in addiction counseling or any other programs.

But those same guidelines that give residents of the commons a safe place to use drugs could encourage a few residents who were users on the street to become drug sellers once ensconced in apartments. Duke acknowledges that discovering who might be dealing from apartments at Bud Clark Commons would be difficult.

But there might be ways to overcome those problems. Duke says that when the commons opened in 2011 her staff kept a list of tenants they thought might be involved in criminal behavior. They would give that list to police officers, who would regularly pay casual visits to those tenants.

“It was awesome,” Duke says. “It added power to our ability to manage those behaviors. People got that we were looking at them and tracking them.”

In 2012, according to Duke, police told her they no longer had resources for those visits. In addition, Duke says, police have refused to give her a list of people arrested for selling drugs in the Old Town area. Duke says she would start an eviction process against any Bud Clark Commons tenants who made the list, and exclude others from becoming future residents.

Home Forward officials say that overall they have less partnership with police at Bud Clark Commons than they do at other public housing buildings or communities such as New Columbia, but they’d welcome increased cooperation.

Chief Reese declined to be interviewed for this story, but Central Precinct Cmdr. Robert Day says his street officers report seeing a lot of drug use around the Old Town apartment complex, and an increase in drug arrests in the area.

Day says it isn’t clear whether drug dealers are operating from apartments inside the commons or dealers are selling to residents of the commons. Residents there told the Tribune that a number of others living in the building bring in heroin to sell to other residents. Tenants could be victims as much as perpetrators, Day surmises. Either way, he says, it’s a problem.

“I think it’s become known by street-level drug dealers,” Day says. “You have a predatory environment there. You’ve got all these people who have addictive behaviors.”

Day supports the idea of housing the city’s most vulnerable at the commons, though he thinks some changes might be necessary. He says state landlord-tenant rules governing the building make it too hard to evict people.

“The more I look at this model, I believe in it,” Day says. “But I don’t know that it can continue because of all the protections granted to people. There needs to be some sort of accountability, something put into place that has people held accountable.”

Portland Police Officer Jim Bare talks to Eric Turner with Bud Clark Commons in the background.

Portland Police Officer Jim Bare talks to Eric Turner with Bud Clark Commons in the background.

Half wet, half dry

Seattle housing officials say that at similar Housing First buildings in that city, drug dealers have been chased out by strict limits on how many guests each tenant could have each day and how many at one time. Duke says the commons is taking similar measures. Residents have told the Tribune that dealers can work deals to use allowable visits by fellow tenants.

Day says the Police Bureau is not planning to immediately file a chronic nuisance complaint, but is holding out that possibility if concerns are not addressed. In fact, the ordinance is generally used as leverage to force change and only rarely is a formal complaint filed with the city attorney.

Raising another question about police calls to the apartments, Day wonders how many calls would be generated by the same people if they were living on the street. “If we bring it all here at least it’s all in one location,” he says.

Day says police are open to better cooperation with management at Bud Clark Commons Apartments. “I really believe that what is being provided here is absolutely necessary. I am open to doing it in a way that is less impactful on the community,” Duke says.

Among the most affected community members is Transition Projects Inc., which operates the homeless day center and shelter on the north side of the Bud Clark Commons facility. The 90-bed short-term shelter is dry — no drugs or alcohol allowed. Having one half of the building wet and half dry creates problems, according to Cliff Madison, board chairman of TPI and chief operating officer for Portland Patrol Inc., which has a contract to provide security around the commons. TPI’s main issue is apartment residents and their guests loitering around the building.

“It also impacts our clients because a lot of them are trying to clean up,” Madison says.

Madison points out that drug dealing has taken place for years in front of the Greyhound bus terminal across the street from the commons, so it can be hard to know how much of the outside drug activity is related to the apartments. He says that TPI’s board has discussed options for dealing with the problem, but would not reveal what actions are being considered. Reese is a member of the TPI board.

Changes at the commons could, however, be more drastic than simply re-establishing coordination with police. The chronic nuisance ordinance is generally used by police to get changes made in the way properties are managed, and police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson says that could be the case with the commons.

“If you have an extraordinary amount of police department service going there, clearly something is not working,” Simpson says.

Housing Commissioner Saltzman says he was aware of complaints about the commons before Reese talked to him last month.

“The chief’s meeting, to me, indicated that things exacerbated from where they had been,” Saltzman says.

According to Saltzman, the city and other agencies involved with Bud Clark Commons might have to consider re-examining some of the Housing First policies governing the building. That could include taking a second look at the commons’ policy of reserving all the apartments in the building for the city’s most vulnerable.

Drugs put commons tenants in a bind

Judy Dietrich, one of the first tenants at Bud Clark Commons apartments, says she would like to see the building's drug dealers evicted.

Judy Dietrich, one of the first tenants at Bud Clark Commons apartments, says she would like to see the building’s drug dealers evicted.

Judy Dietrich would change only one thing about life at Bud Clark Commons Apartments. She’d like to see the drug dealers kicked out.

“The less dealers we have, the better off we are,” says Dietrich, 49, one of the first tenants placed at the commons.

Before taking a test that rated her among the city’s most vulnerable and qualified her for one of the 130 apartments at the Old Town complex, Dietrich spent three years living on the street. A heroin addict, she says she is being treated with methadone.

Dietrich’s studio apartment at the commons is crammed full with her stuff. She feeds barbecue-flavored potato chips to her pet rat, Mother, and her pet mouse,

Neonasha, who live in cages near her bed.

Since moving into the commons, Dietrich has made use of the social services available on the building’s fourth floor. Social workers helped her apply for Social Security Disability benefits, which she now receives.

On the street, according to Dietrich, she didn’t have the wherewithal to apply for benefits. “I spent all my time making sure I would be warm at night,” she says. “The people on the fourth floor, I really do love them.”

Dietrich also is seeing a mental health counselor as a result of connections made through the commons, and she is having dental work performed. She says her husband is a patient at Oregon Health & Science University and social workers at the commons supplied her with a taxi voucher so she could visit him. The apartment at the commons is intended for Dietrich alone, but before his hospitalization, she says, her husband would stay with her a few nights at a time. When he is well, she says, staff have told her they will help the two of them move into public housing.

“If they could just get rid of some of the people doing wrong, selling drugs,” Dietrich says. “On every floor here there are at least one or two people who (will) sell you something.”

Good idea poorly executed

Jason Isbell spends a lot of time in Bud Clark Commons. Isbell says he knows about 40 percent of the building’s tenants through his years on the street. He can often be found visiting a friend in one apartment or another. He calls himself “high-functioning crazy” and admits to a life of using and dealing drugs. He is being treated with methadone.

According to Isbell, about eight in 10 residents at the commons are substance abusers. Heroin is the drug of choice for about two-thirds of the drug-abusing residents, he says. Hand-off drug deals in front of the building are common, he says, and users know which apartments to ring if they want to buy heroin or meth. It’s not uncommon, Isbell says, for people using the services at the day center to buy drugs in the apartments.

Isbell says he knows a man who has a Bud Clark Commons apartment but rarely is there — he stays at a friend’s apartment in the building and allows a dealer to use his apartment as a base of operations.

Isbell says there are six or seven heroin dealers and four or five meth dealers in the building that he knows personally. Another 20 tenants, he estimates, serve as middlemen or runners for dealers. Isbell says the setup at the commons provides a perfect situation for addicts who were unable to deal on the street.

“They’re just doing it because they’re able to do it,” he says. “Because they have a safe place to do their transactions. They’d get busted in a minute on the street.”

Isbell says the staff at the commons should be aware of the dealing. “Everybody knows everybody who lives there,” he says. “As long as you’re not disturbing the people around you, they don’t care.”

“It’s a great idea poorly executed,” Isbell says of the commons. He says as long as tenants know they can stay there rent-free for life, they won’t be motivated to make changes in their lives. For those with income — usually Social Security Disability — the commons takes about 30 percent for monthly rent.

“A lot of those people, they’re not on the street, so they have no further goals,” he says. “They’re happy. They need to stop allowing people to placate themselves by doing nothing. They need to ensure that people are using this place as an opportunity to improve their lives rather than do the same thing indoors. That is the waste of money.”

A safe place for some

A police officer who patrols the area around Bud Clark Commons says he knows of residents who have moved out of the building because of too much criminal activity. He adds that he gets called to the apartments once or twice a day.

But the officer, who asked that his name not be published, says he prefers to take a big-picture look, and from that perspective he calls the apartments a success. “This provides a place for homeless alcoholics and drug users to live,” he says. “The good news is they’re not doing it out there in front of the MAX stop.”

Another tenant of the commons, a woman in her late 20s with a history of heroin abuse who says she is bipolar, who also asked to remain anonymous, says the heroin scene in the building is “crazy,” but calls her apartment “a godsend.”

“I was living out of a plastic bag for 13 years,” she says, adding that she was raped multiple times while living on the street, but has been safe at the commons.

She wonders if the commons is a more dangerous place to be for heroin addicts because it gives them a safe place to shoot up, and might lead to overdoses. In fact, the tenant says she knows of residents who had never done heroin until moving into Bud Clark Commons, but became hooked on the drug through other residents.

For her, feeling safe trumps all other concerns. “We need more buildings like this,” she says.

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Portland shelters provide warmth to homeless

Posted by Jenny on 12th December 2013

The Portland Mercury, Dec. 9, 2013

See the end of this post for a list of available shelters.

People wait in line outside the Union Gospel Mission.

People wait in line outside the Union Gospel Mission.

They were standing with a group of young people outside Union Gospel Mission. He was wearing snowpants and boots, two jackets and a hat. She was without a hat, in a jacket and gloves, and shivering as she asked me for a smoke. Which I didn’t have.

Almost as soon as we started talking, a man walked by the group, the rest of them huddling on a blanket in front of a packed Fred Meyer cart, and handed over a package so precious it was immediately torn open to shouts of thank you: thick warm socks. A whole dozen of them.

“It’s cold enough to get me to want to break into that place there,” the man I spoke with said while pointing to the Sinnott House under forever construction across SW Couch. “We need somewhere we can go and stay there and stay warm.”

The woman looked at me and said “This is like New York.”

He chimed in again, “We’re cuddling together in big groups.”

They all looked miserable. And then they started getting their stuff together so they could head in for Union Gospel Mission’s regular afternoon snack time at 2 pm.

It’s been like this in a lot of places downtown and all throughout Portland over the weekend, thanks to a record cold snap unlike anything we’ve seen in the past decade. And for all the pain in the streets, there’s been a flurry of activity among provider and government agencies in hopes of dulling it.

“You’re never sure that its enough,” says Marc Jolin of JOIN, one of the housing and services providers helping coordinate the region’s response. “You’re never sure you’re getting to everybody.”

The Portland Housing Bureau, Commissioner Dan Saltzman‘s office, Multnomah County, and a panoply of providers have now spent days in “severe weather” mode, holding daily conference calls and relying on 211 to transmit information about emergency shelters and warming centers. (For those who don’t know, 211 is the number you call in Oregon—24 hours a day—for information about and referrals to social services providers.)

Providers, from Right 2 Dream Too to Transition Projects to JOIN to Portland Rescue Mission have been putting out desperate calls for gear: blankets, sleeping bags, shoes, socks, everything. They were short in supplies after a cold snap around Thanksgiving. But after putting out the word for help, things have been better. And yet, they still need more.

Even the police bureau has taken a more formal role in helping out. All weekend, after midnight, 211 has been working with police dispatchers to get officers out picking up people who call in and want shelter and can’t otherwise get there on their own. Until this cold snap, 211 would call social services providers at home to see if they could help someone calling after midnight. All told, the bureau says it’s helped 20 people (27 others refused transport).

“This is about life and death,” says Central Precinct Commander Bob Day, who told me that some of his officers and sergeants had already been doing this informally last week before Day spoke with Jolin and proposed starting this up citywide. “We’ve had an amazing response from the officers. I thought this would be a hard sell. But I have been so impressed. There’s been no pushback.”

Day acknowledged that some people didn’t want to go with an officer. That’s not surprising, given law enforcement’s role in enforcing complaints and sweeping camps during better weather. Jolin says he’s talking with officials about some other way to help people after midnight.

Dan Herman, 211′s chief executive, and Troy Hammon, the service’s operations chief, both said this cold snap has been among the worst they can remember and among the busiest for 211. Almost 100 people a day have called in either explicitly seeking shelter or about some other issue that makes clear they also need shelter. Herman says last Friday was the busiest on record for 211′s website, 211info.org.

Hammond says it’s been eight days of crisis mode, with more to come. The second-longest spurt, he says, was four days.

“This has gone on longer than anything else in the last four years for us,” Hammond says.

The story was the same over at Right 2 Dream Too, which has only been open for the past two years at NW 4th and Burnside. Folks working there said it’s been bitterly cold in their tents, but manageable with sleeping bags and blankets. Many of their overnight sleepers have hit up warming shelters, coming back to get even more sleep during the day.

One big complication has been condensation in tents—caused by warm breath hitting the cold tent fabric. That condensation has been freezing at night and then melting all at once during the day. The site’s dishwashing tubs and water also have frozen solid. They’ve been making their normal requests—for shoes, underwear (men’s and women’s), thermals, chapstick, sleeping bags, hand warmers, and blankets—stuff they collect for their own site but also share with folks sleeping under bridges and in doorways.

But now they need paper plates and cups and bowls, too.

“It’s still better than the sidewalk,” one of the volunteers told me.

Here’s 211′s list of what’s open, and when. Even if you’ve got someplace warm to be tonight, maybe a neighbor or someone else doesn’t.

Family Winter Shelter
12505 NE Halsey Street, Portland Oregon (on Halsey near 126th Avenue)
This is a walk-in facility. It is not necessary to call beforehand. No one will be turned away.
Dates: Seven nights a week throughout winter season
Hours: 7:00 PM – 7:00 AM
Serves: Families with children under 18 and women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy

Women’s Winter Shelter
Check availability at Bud Clark Commons, 650 NW Irving,
Walk in Mon-Fri 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Sat/Sun 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
or call 503-280-4700
Dates: Seven nights a week throughout winter season
Hours: 7:00 PM – 7:00 AM
Serves: Single women

Red Cross Severe Weather Emergency Warming Center at Imago Dei Church

1302 Ankeny Street, (near 13th Avenue in Inner SE)
This is a walk-in facility. Pets allowed, some space for carts, accessible location
Dates: Evening of Monday, December 9
Hours: 9:00 PM – 7:00 AM
Serves: Families, single adults, and youths
Transportation: Bus #12, 19 and 20 from Union Gospel Mission

Union Gospel Mission
15 NW 3rd Avenue, 503-228-0319
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Evenings of Monday, December 9 and Tuesday, December 10
Hours: 9:30 PM – 6:00 AM
Serves: Families, single adults, and youths

First Baptist Church
224 W Powell, Gresham
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Monday, December 9
Hours: 1:00 PM – 7:00 AM
Serves: Single adults with limited space for families

Red Sea Community Church
7535 N Chicago Avenue
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Evening of Monday, December 9
Hours: 8:00 PM – 8:00 AM
Serves: Single adults with limited space for families

The following expanded day center service is available during the Severe Weather Notice:

Dignity Village
9401 NE Sunderland Avenue, 503-281-1604
Hot showers available.
Dates: Seven days a week during winter season
Hours: 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Serves: Adults 18 and older

JOIN
1435 NE 81st Avenue
This is a walk-in facility.
Dates: Monday, December 9 and Tuesday, December 10
Hours: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Serves: Families, single adults and youths

Red and Black Cafe
400 SE 12th Avenue, 503-231-3899
Provides warming space in cafe, no purchase necessary
Dates: Monday, December 9
Hours: 10:30 AM – 10:00 PM
Serves: All

Rose Haven
627 NW 18th Avenue, 503-248-6364
Dates: Monday, December 9
Hours: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Serves: Women and children

Saint André Bessette Catholic Church (Downtown Chapel)
601 W Burnside Street, 503-228-0746
Provides hot beverages, some snacks and movies
Dates: Unable to confirm
Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Serves: Adults

Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
330 SE 11th Avenue, 503.232.5880
Dates: Monday, December 9 through Tuesday, December 10
Hours: Approximately 7:15 AM – 8:45 PM

Union Gospel Mission
15 NW 3rd Avenue, 503-228-0319
This is a walk-in facility. Meal will be served.
Dates: Monday, December 9 and Tuesday, December 10
Hours: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM and 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Serves: Families, single adults, and youths

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Who are Portland’s homeless?

Posted by Jenny on 3rd November 2013

By Evan Sernoffsky, KGW News, Nov. 2, 2013

Homeless person with dogAfter a summer of clashes between cops and street kids, a sweep of campers in front of Portland’s City Hall, and the contentious possible move of the Right to Dream Too camp, homelessness has taken center-stage as one of Portland’s hot-button issues.

But many in the Rose City may have a skewed perception of Portland’s homeless due to a relatively small yet visible group, many of whom migrate up and down the west coast depending on the time of year.

Among the most conspicuous homeless are those who sleep on the streets and sidewalks of downtown and Old Town Portland. It’s on this pavement where they cross paths with the business community, downtown shoppers, and families visiting from out of town. But this group really only makes up about 10 percent of the city’s homeless population, according to a 2013 report by the city of Portland and Multnomah County.

On a given night, some 2,869 people are without homes in Portland with 1,572 more living in transitional housing, the report shows.

Life on the streets can be brutal. In 2011, 47 homeless people died in Portland, according to one study, and experts point out that the number could be much larger because only deaths under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner are counted.

Many of these homeless are families with children and individuals working to overcome unemployment, high housing costs, health-related issues, domestic abuse, mental illness, or substance addiction.

The city’s data, however, may not accurately represent the real number of those who sleep on downtown Portland’s streets and sidewalks. The Point-In-Time report, which is conducted by the city of Portland and Multnomah County, provides only a snapshot of Portland’s homelessness on one night in January.

Now, as Portland’s unseasonably warm October shifts to cooler, wetter, winter weather, many of the city’s young homeless will pack up their bed rolls, thumb a ride, or hop a freight train to cities with warmer and drier climates.

Those who stay will contribute to Portland’s rising homeless rate. According to the numbers, almost a third of people on the streets have only been in Portland for two years or less and 60 percent of that group was homeless when they came to Portland. KGW also learned that many cities are providing their homeless with one-way bus tickets to Portland.

The impact created by the street kids that travel through Portland every summer, only to leave as the seasons change, not only has the city’s business community grumbling about damage to the economy but has, in many ways, negatively defined the city’s permanent homeless population.

“There’s a group of individuals that have come to know the streets as their community,” said Israel Bayer, an advocate for the homeless in Portland who is the executive director of street newspaper Street Roots. “Many of them grew up in foster homes and missed a lot of early childhood milestones. They have no parental safety net and when they’re engaged in just surviving, it can be challenging.”

He said these groups, which have come to be known as “travelers” or “street kids,” often make their way to warmer places like San Diego, Austin, and Albuquerque after the summer. Many move illegally as stowaways on freight trains and need to get over the mountain passes before the first freeze hits. This nomadic group of travelers is consequently never counted when the city collects its data on homelessness in January.

Bayer also said many local homeless resources don’t coordinate across cities so there is no hard data on how many migratory homeless people come and go during the warmer months.

This past summer, problems with this small yet visible group got police attention, prompted discussions about sidewalk civility and made news headlines.

In July, a man described as a homeless traveler smashed 70-year-old Larry Allen in the face with a skateboard outside the Portland Outdoor Store, sending him to the hospital. Daniel Delbert Dorson, 18, was arrested three months later in Humboldt County, Calif.

“Our central precinct sees complaints that are mostly due to livability issues. People sleeping in doorways, urinating outside, garbage, drugs,” said Sgt. Pete Simpson with the Portland Police Bureau. “In the warmer months, we see the same behavior with street kids but it’s definitely more aggressive.”

This year, two well-documented altercations between out-of-town business people and aggressive young homeless people had many in the business community worried that Portland may be gaining a reputation as being unsafe.

In one instance, a sales manager from the non-profit marketing organization Travel Portland was touring two women who were looking to book a meeting at the Oregon Convention Center. The women were reportedly intimidated by an aggressive panhandler who berated the group, followed them onto a MAX train, and eventually into the convention center where a security guard had to step in. Megan Conway with Travel Portland said the altercation was a deciding factor in the planners opting to have their convention elsewhere.

According to a spokesperson with the Oregon Convention Center, events at the venue bring in around $434 million to the city every year.

In a second incident, a board member from a national group was walking around downtown with his wife when he was punched in the head and knocked to the ground, injuring his face and breaking his ribs, according to Conway. Travel Portland wants to make sure these incidents don’t irreparably damage the city’s reputation as a safe destination and consequently have a negative impact on Portland’s economy.

Many who work with homeless youth in Portland point out the difference between the migratory travelers and those who live in Portland year-round.

“It’s cyclical, every time the weather starts to warm up, we start to hear grumbling about the homeless young people downtown,” said Kevin Donegan, who works with homeless and runaway at Janus youth programs. “But ‘young people’ can mean anyone ages 16-30.”

Donegan works to try to engage young people to get them into housing, help them with education, and work to find them employment. He said most of the people in his services are not engaged in downtown problems.

“If someone is passing through town, they don’t generally use our services, and if we know they are involved in problems, they don’t get services,” he said.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Portland is growing. Those who sleep outside in abandoned buildings, vehicles or other places not intended for human habitation went up 10 percent from 2011 to 2013, according to city data.

Portland has routinely pledged to respond to what it calls the crisis of homelessness. In 2004, Portland created the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, which established ambitious goals to help find housing, jobs, health care and emergency services for those in need.

After a summer of crackdowns on homeless campers around Portland’s City Hall, Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman is requesting an additional $1.7 million for homeless services in Portland from the city’s annual fall adjustment to the city’s budget.

Saltzman wrapped up a series of meetings with stakeholders in the community Monday with the goal of making a visible change to Portland’s homeless situation.

Mayor Charlie Hales is in China working on, among other things, securing more public art that would go to raise money for Portland’s homeless. Spokesman Dana Haynes said the mayor supports Saltzman’s plan to visibly change the face of homelessness in Portland.

City leaders are still refining the proposal, which must be approved by Nov. 13.

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Homeless people in other cities got one-way bus tickets to Portland

Posted by Jenny on 1st November 2013

KGW News, Oct. 31, 2013

When her Greyhound bus pulled into town 6 months ago, Maria Castillo got off with two bags and dream.

“Start over, start a new life,” said the 42-year-old.

Castillo had been homeless in San Diego when a social worker offered her a one-way bus ticket to Portland.

“They said come here because all the opportunities in Portland, Oregon,” she said.

But Castillo said life isn’t much better in her new town. She’s still homeless. A Unit 8 investigation found several cities from San Diego to San Francisco are providing one-way bus tickets to the homeless.

“I know it was through the police department. They sent me here,” said James McDonald.

He came to Portland 7 years ago from San Francisco while battling addiction. San Francisco’s Homeward Bound program has paid for one-way bus tickets for more than 5,000 people to travel across the United States as long as there’s someone willing to receive them on the other end.

“I’m sure it saves the city of San Francisco a lot of money,” said McDonald.

It’s not clear how many homeless people have come to Portland on one-way bus tickets. It’s likely just a fraction of the city’s homeless population, estimates city commissioner Dan Saltzman.

“I don’t think police officers are handing out, or social service providers are handing out bus tickets just saying, ‘One way tickets to Portland here. Get out of town’,” Saltzman said.

The homeless are being bused from as far away as Florida. Since 2002, St. Petersburg put 13 different people on buses to Oregon.

“We’re not using Greyhound therapy,” said Jane Walker of Daystar Life Center in St. Petersburg.

Half of the program’s annual $30,000 budget comes from taxpayer county funds.

“We interview them. We talk to the folks they say they are going to live with,” said Walker.

Homeless advocate Ibrahim Mubarak said these programs don’t solve the problem. They just move it from one city to the next.

“They are trying to sweep reality under a carpet,” he said.

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Now is not the time to give up on those who are homeless

Posted by admin2 on 25th September 2013

Op Ed by Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Commissioner, published in Street Roots, September 23, 2013

Last week, a young, frightened woman phoned my Multnomah County office looking for help. She was a mother, with three children, who needed housing. The family had been doubling up with a relative, but now that relative was moving out of town. She needed help immediately. She’d called the shelters in Portland, but they were full and most had a six-week waiting list. She was growing desperate.

Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Commissioner

Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Commissioner

Her call hit particularly close to home. I’m a mother and I have three children. I know too well how hard it is to get three kids fed, clothed and ready for school, to arrange childcare, pay bills, keep up with vaccinations, struggle to help them with math homework, meet with their teachers, counsel them about bullies, to care for them physically, emotionally and mentally in today’s increasingly complicated world.

But, I cannot imagine what it’s like to do all that while homeless.

Too many of our mothers and fathers do know, though. Between low vacancy rates, rising rents and the lingering effects of the recession, on any given night in Multnomah County, more than 2,869 people are homeless, according to the 2013 point-in-time Count.

Reading the painful headlines this summer, it’s tempting to want to throw up our hands.

“Violent Attacks amid seasonal rise in homeless population raise tension in city,’’ The Oregonian, July 22, 2013

“Homeless Camp in SE Portland Frustrates Neighbors, Homeless” The Oregonian, July 26, 2013

“Three Blocks of SW Fourth Are A Homeless Camp” Portland Mercury, June 7, 2013

While it’s reasonable for the press to inform the community about these incidents, the articles only tackle a fraction of the story. A more complete picture would show that the homeless population in Multnomah County include:

  • Parents who are raising children. The number of families who are homeless increased 18 percent since the last point-in-time Count.
  • Newly homeless. More than half the people sleeping on our streets have been homeless for less than a year. In other words, just a year ago, they had homes and many of them had jobs. In fact, many of them still do have jobs.
  • Military veterans. More than one in 10 of our homeless adults served this country.
  • Young people. On any given night, there are at least 100 homeless youths on waiting lists for a shelter bed.

What the headlines do capture is that our system is at capacity. Multnomah County, the City of Portland, Home Forward and community partners have helped thousands into homes in the last decade with smart strategic spending on programs like rapid re-housing, flexible rent assistance, and permanent supportive housing for those with addictions and disabilities.

Yet the federal government, paralyzed by sequestration, is actually serving fewer households and with lower benefits. The result is that despite our best efforts so far, too many people in our community cannot afford a place to live. Last November, for instance, when Home Forward opened up the Section 8 voucher waiting list for the first time in years, they received 21,000 applications in one week. Yet, under the most optimistic scenarios, only 3,000 of those households will be helped in the next five years.

We have reached a critical crossroads: we can either stay the course and hope that forces outside Oregon’s borders like Congress and the national economy will somehow resolve this issue. Or, we can boldly step together in a new direction.

We can start by knocking down the artificial boundaries of a 30-year-old agreement that made the city of Portland responsible for chronically homeless individuals and Multnomah County responsible for homeless families. Instead of this archaic system with gaps and unintentional overlaps, we can create a new unified hub that will pool our scarce resources, encircle our community partners and inspire our partners in business and philanthropy.

Toward that end, I stand with City Commissioner Dan Saltzman for his recent pledge of additional funds for housing. I commit to working with my colleagues at Multnomah County to respond in kind. And I call for a new unified effort that more closely aligns our entire efforts, streamlines our administration and re-focuses on attention toward building on what we know works. We are one community and we must work as one.

This week, we know that there are far too many children who dressed for their first day of school at a homeless shelter. Let’s help their mothers and fathers bring them soon to a safe and secure home.

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Called Out, Saltzman Now Seeking Up to $1.7 Million for Homelessness

Posted by admin2 on 18th August 2013

From The Portland Mercury, August 28, 2013

Commissioner Dan Saltzman‘s rapid education as the new overseer of the Portland Housing Bureau is continuing apace.

After taking flak in a Mercury story this week for letting Mayor Charlie Hales drive a seemingly big-stick-tiny-carrot approach to homelessness—and talking up an idea, $250,000 for shelters, that better-versed advocates quickly panned—Saltzman went on KGW yesterday to take credit for a broader-based package of reforms that he now says could pour up to $1.7 million into safety net programs.

He said the new money could come as early as next month. Saltzman didn’t get into this, but likely sources could include the city’s contingency fund, which Hales doubled in his budget to $3 million, or new revenue. The city budget office could have good news when it revises its forecasts next month.

Saltzman’s announcement came during a lengthy sitdown on “Straight Talk” that was recorded Friday and aired yesterday. It came after his chief of staff and, for the first time, Commissioner Nick Fish were invited to one of Hales’ informal information-gathering sessions on homelessness. (Invitations that magically came down a day after Fish first went public with his distaste for the status quo on Blogtown, and the same day our story ran.)

And the contours of Saltzman’s plan, submitted to Hales, at his request, in a memo late last week, sound a lot like what was hashed out at that city hall powwow. Talk of shelters, also previously mentioned by Hales as a bone to throw, was played down in light of something advocates say is much more cost-effective and beneficial: rental assistance and housing specialists.

“I’d have them sleeping in an apartment of their own,” Saltzman said when reporter Reggie Aqui asked where people sleeping outside could go if they’re not allowed to camp. “That’s one of the things we’re investing our resources in. Housing specialists…. If we can get them into an apartment and get them services to be successful, 70 to 80 percent are still housed even a year later.”

He also said “shelters are not the end-all solution by any means.”

Those well-calibrated statements suggest Saltzman has done quite a bit of studying in the past week or so.

When I sat down with him on August 9, his embrace of rental assistance was limited and he tried to put some distance between the kind of supportive services he discussed on KGW—mental health and addiction treatment, vocational training—and the housing bureaus mission. He said some of that is better provided by the county or city’s general fund. He also said Hales’ political strategy of pushing first with enforcement before coming forward with resources—something that blew up last week—was “sound.”

Saltzman, during that interview, said “one of his first priorities” was to “expand our shelter capacity and other rental assistance for homeless women in particular.”

He also said some people “aren’t going to avail themselves of shelter, even if we had unlimited capacity. Having said that, the mayor did mention finding additional resources to shelter. I’ll be talking to him next week about what his thoughts are so we can come up with some kind of strategy.”

Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, leading efforts to streamline regional spending on housing and homelessness, publicly shared her distaste for that idea when I interviewed her. Advocates and staffers also pushed against it hard during the meeting with Hales last week.

Saltzman’s statements on KGW—a promise of additional city resources—also reflect a shift in his understanding of the housing bureau’s budget. He told me that he was miffed when social services advocates mounted a campaign for safety net funding this spring, a year after Fish and former Mayor Sam Adams worked out a deal that converted $4.6 million in housing funds from onetime money to ongoing money.

“I’m not convinced everything in the safety net is truly the safety net,” he said. “Suddenly we find out in this budget process that, well, [the $4.6 million,] that’s not enough for the safety net. My question is what’s enough? And what constitutes the safety net?”

Of course, that wasn’t the case. The funding campaign wasn’t about adding more money to housing. It was about persuading Hales and the city council not to burden it with the same 10 percent cuts other bureaus were being asked to contemplate. It was a successful campaign. The housing bureau was held harmless when it came to local money.

“Is that what they’re saying?” he asked me when I relayed that after saying I was confused.

So it was quite surprising, one week later, to see Saltzman on TV as the face of a new revenue push from city hall, pitching a sum that’s nearly half of that $4.6 million. Saltzman also was asked about Fish’s comments on Blogtown, which called Hales’ compassion into question, among some other ungentle prods.

“All of us are filled with compassion for people who are homeless,” Saltzman said. “We are very compassionate. What you’re seeing a little bit is the issue of a mayor to reassert the city’s right to keep the sidewalks clear and to have no sleeping in our parks.”

He said he could understand, when asked by [KGW's Reggie] Aqui, why the city’s approach so far—all sidewalk and camping enforcement—might seem like it wasn’t compassionate. But he followed that up.

“I also understand that some people want to know their sidewalks are going to be clear,” he said. “I guarantee you people do not want people sleeping in the parks. It may sound good in the abstract. But once a camp is established in the park in your neighborhood, you’ll be on the phone to my office or to someone in the mayor’s office saying ‘do something about this.’”

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