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.

By Sean Davis

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and the winner of the Legionnaire of the Year Award from the American Legion in 2015 and the recipient of the Emily Gottfried Emerging Leader, Human Rights award for 2016. His stories, essays, and articles have appeared in the the Ted Talk Book The Misfit’s Manifesto (Simon and Schuster), Forest Avenue Press anthology City of Weird, Sixty Minutes, Story Corps, Flaunt Magazine, The Big Smoke, Human the movie, and much more.


  1. I appreciate the work you are doing – many community memebers want to help but don’t have a way to plug in. There has been some conversation around raising funds for portable toilets at the homeless camps for example. What is your oppinion? I know what is really needed are homes, but we need to do something in the interim.

    1. Portable toilets need to happen. I was a security guard in the Pearl for years. The business owners complain about homeless people urinating and defecating in the doors of their businesses. Until we find a solution to relocate we need to furnish toilets, but away from the businesses.

  2. Each time there is a problem with the business community, a solution should be offered. We do not have enough public toilets in our city. That would help. We need storage for the homeless/houseless and have been asking the city council for years to set something up. We need housing for the people on the street. Affordable Housing has nothing to do with the homeless. The politicians used terms to describe the homeless to get affordable housing money from the feds. We need homeless/houseless people on the committees that come out of the city and county. We need a leader to say, “enough!” and do something real!

    1. I’ve heard this from a lot of people who have been out there helping and also from people unfortunate enough to have lived homeless. I agree. We need more public toilets. I think we can address this with the 30 million the council vowed to spend.

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