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Nextdoor valuable neighborhood tool
To the Editor:
The good article “In search of home” (MCM March 2017) described extreme homelessness causes and effects. As is often the case, by not acting early on to help people at risk for becoming homeless, the problem becomes more difficult and expensive to solve. “Pay me now or pay me later” comes to mind.
Part of this article takes a rather high-minded perspective about the Nextdoor social media site, claiming it promotes gossip and divisiveness, as if all we neighbors do is spy on other people. In fact, many of us in east Portland use Nextdoor as a neighborhood watch organization. We are besieged with crime, with little help from the understaffed police department. We have learned that we must watch out for one another. We post reports so others can be alert. We educate our neighbors how to stay safe and how to report crime. Also, using Nextdoor, many of us have organized donation drives for the residents of the Hansen Shelter. We use it to sign up for monthly sack lunch work parties for the shelter, as well as occasional evening meals. I suggest we neighbors are invested in maintaining our neighborhoods, often with very little support from the city or county.
Homeless are a plague on Portland
The author of this article (“In search of home” MCM March 2017) must not have attended the Town Hall meeting at St. Rita’s Parish on March 9. There was a panel answering questions on the issues and problems concerning the homeless. Three on the panel were from the homeless population. I went to this meeting hopeful; I hoped we could clean up Portland and put everyone into a home. I left this meeting feeling as if there is nothing we can do to fix the problem. That we, the ones who have a home, think there is a problem … not the folks out on the street.
In the article, you say the population has decided to “blame” homeless people and punish them for it. “Not in my backyard,” we (the folks in homes) say. The picture on the front of the article says the gentleman was kicked out of the Hansen Shelter for threatening to blow it up. “They’re pretty tough over there,” he says. [He actually said they are “touchy.”]
I’m sorry, but what do you expect? There are rules to follow; other people’s lives and safety matter, and he is upset he is out on the street again? What was wrong with the place he had to stay? Wasn’t it better than the street?
Of the three on the panel, two admitted to being addicts and want the lifestyle they have. The third has been on the street for more than 15 years. They all want to be respected and treated with dignity. A quote from one on the panel was, “If homelessness was the only issue, housing COULD be accomplished.” I’m sure these folks are desperate to find a bathroom, a shower and a hot meal. But from our conversation that Sunday afternoon, few are desperate to find a home. I don’t mean to sound heartless or cynical, but there are several shelters around. I think what people are upset with is the attitude we are faced with. How can you treat people with dignity and respect when they leave their trash all over town, all over the sides of I-84? Portland looks like a dump! You offer change and are greeted with “Is that all you have?” or if you have none when asked, you get cussed out. You offer food, but that isn’t what they are asking for. No wonder we are saying, “Not in my backyard.”
We recently traveled clear across the country from Buffalo, N.Y., back to Portland. We did not see anything to compare to the mess there is here. We did not see any “tent cities.” We did not see people camped out under every bridge in town. We did not see litter and shopping carts on every corner. We did not see any evidence of homelessness in any of the cities we traveled through. There are several empty parking lots and buildings all over Portland. Could they be equipped with trash cans and port-a-potties and the tents set up there? Could some of the homeless that are not addicts be hired to oversee a homeless camp to see that drugs are not used, or if they are, that needles are disposed of and trash is picked up? Could some of the motels around town offer a room for a day so that folks had a place to shower and clean up? Could Portland not hire someone who has knowledge in this area to get these people off the streets and into training and jobs? Salt Lake City has reduced their homelessness to less than 10 percent. Could the city of Portland check that out?
I am not qualified to solve this problem. I am qualified to speak to and offer food or assistance to someone in need. Our city and our churches need to reach out to these folks. But it is going to take more than a meal, a hot shower and a bit of respect and dignity to solve this problem.
Argay Terrace resident