by Rev. Chuck Currie
July 22, 2013
The homeless campers around Portland City Hall are a minor symptom of a larger problem: our inability to address the crisis of affordable housing plus the growing problems of poverty, unemployment, mental illness, addiction, and the needs of returning veterans and homeless students. The Portland-area needs a permanent source of funding to create affordable housing, either a housing levy or some other funding source, and after that we need a permanent source of funding to beef up the safety net that year after year faces cuts that create a climate of crisis in our social service delivery system. Mayor Hales and the Portland City Council are to be applauded for not cutting safety net programs during a difficult budget year but that isn’t enough. Arresting people and creating new ordinances to criminalize homelessness are short sighted and tired solutions that may answer sometimes valid concerns of downtown and inner-city neighbors who don’t like the crisis of homelessness on their front door or in their back yard but it does nothing to solve the problem and will only continue a pattern of moving people from one neighborhood to another. I would urge Mayor Charlie Hales to bring representatives of the Metro region jurisdictions together with the faith and business communities to consider bolder and more far reaching solutions that create real and lasting change. The moral obligation of any city is to end homelessness, not just manage it.
Rev. Chuck Currie, Minister, Sunnyside Church and University Park Church, Portland, Ore.