According to a recent Willamette Week interview with George Devendorf, the current amount of homeless sleeping on our streets is 1,438, but when Charlie Hales first took office four years ago that number was 1,642. Don’t get me wrong homelessness is a huge issue we have to deal with but where was the state of emergency before Wheeler decided to run?
Immediately after Wheeler filed he went to the council and declared the crisis on our streets. The problem is real, but I’m afraid that this state of emergency is politically based. I mean it’s a safe issue to get behind. Who isn’t going to say we don’t need to help the homeless?
For the people on the streets at night, we have to ensure we’re funding shelters, but we also need to speak to people already on the ground fighting the good fight, people like George Devendorf. He worked for Mercy Corps on the same problem in war-torn countries. His ideas will be key and he’s the type of person we need working on the problem. Both Wheeler and Bailey talk proudly about their work with “A Home for Everyone.” This is a joint venture between the county and city. Research it like I did and you’ll find that it is a self-admitted “resetting” of a ten year project they started twelve years ago. If this is the project they’ve used and been working on all this time it obviously isn’t working. The proof is that we’ve called a state of emergency on homelessness. So maybe stop touting that as your experience with the issue.
Jules Bailey said that he’ll cut homeless in half if he’s elected. I didn’t wait to get elected before helping the homeless. My experience with homelessness is that my wife and I have had over a dozen people staying in the back room of our house over the last few years. We’ve had combat veterans, women leaving relationships, a mother and a child, and many more stay with us because they had nowhere else to go. Three days ago I gave Daniel all the peanut butter and tuna he could carry. Daniel is a homeless Vietnam Veteran (yes, they’re not all off the street as Wheeler claims) who comes to the Post 134 every few days. We’ve also clothed homeless people and given out a backpack after one was stolen. My experience is a bit more proactive than saying I wrote legislation for a failing program. I built a food bank, and a clothing bank at Post 134. Last Thanksgiving and the Thanksgiving before that, we held a community dinner for anyone who wanted to come in.
There’s no easy fix for this problem and if a candidate says they have it figured out I’d examine everything that came from their mouths after they utter that phrase. That said, I did all that we are doing at the post without a budget. I reached out to the community and they responded, they overwhelmingly responded. So, yes, let’s sit down and have a responsible conversation with community and city leaders on how to spend the thirty million dollars our city council vowed to put toward this problem. Let’s see what City Council member Dan Saltzman has to say because he heads up the Gateway Domestic Violence Center. Let’s see what the rest of the city council has to say, but we also need to hear the voice of our community leaders. We need people from Central City Concern, the Transition Project, Inc, and other agencies that are dealing with this project on a daily basis. We can’t go on doing the same thing we’ve been doing. We need to invite voices from the community to get a solution.