Week 1

Last year, I covered Portland’s homeless epidemic extensively. In fact, I interviewed the leaders of many of the largest homeless care centers in the state. Because I don’t want to bore readers and want to discuss more then one thing, I will not be writing much about homeless this year. However, I did recently talk to a leader of Portland Rescue Mission and though the conversation quite worth while.

Over the summer, Portland chose a new Mayor. To see my interview with Mayor Elect Ted Wheeler, Click Here. One of Wheeler’s campaign promises was that he would find the solution to Portland homeless crisis.

“There are over 4,000 people experiencing homelessness in Portland that sleep on the streets or in a shelter, each night. The city is working on a long-term plan to help serve the homeless population,” Erin Moussallem ensures us.

Moussallem is a “Community Engagement Specialist” for Portland Rescue Mission. PRM is a short term solution for Portland’s Homeless. They offer food and shelter, but in order to tackle the larger issue of the epidemic in Portland, long term solutions must be made. The city is lacking in a long term plan, although Wheeler has claimed it will be his goal to provide a bed for every homeless person in the city. Whether this works in getting people off the streets or simply increases the safety of Portland’s homeless has yet to be seen, but for now the short term programs are in high demand.

“Portland Rescue Mission exists to serve the homeless and addicted. We provide overnight shelter for over 150 people each night, as well as hot meals and showers, every day. We also have a [longer] term program for those who are looking for work and permanent housing.”

As community engagement specialist, Moussallem “works with businesses, schools, and other community groups to help them get involved with Portland Rescue Mission, and to tell folks about the work we are doing at our organization.” This role is quite important because everyone in the community that I have spoken to-homeless people and community activists alike-all agree that the number one problem is awareness. Portland is not lacking in services, so often times outreach is a barrier.

Last week, forty high schoolers from Germany came to portland on an exchange student program. As president of a community service and leadership club at my school, I met these kids and gave them a tour of Portland. We had barely left the premises of the school, when we were confronted by a group of ten or fifteen homeless people. The exchange students were amazed. In broken english they told me that they love Portland, but would never be able to come back because they “hate seeing homeless people.” They went on to say that in germany, all of these people would be put in jail.

Although prison isn’t the right answer, the city is unable to come up with ways to combat this issue. If the homelessness continues to grow in this city, not only will tourism decrease but less and less people will want to live in this city.

2 thoughts on “Week 1

  1. So proud of your leadership role in all this. The problem is massive. San Francisco is another place where you are literally stepping over the homeless. Obviously drug use has increased as a problem along with homelessness. Whereas in Chicago, I can see an answer to poverty through the next generation if we were to spend the money to take kids from the time they’re born and raise them in community-based day care and great after-school problems (at least, ideally), those already on the street are often lost to society. Chicago is so big, that the homeless are removed from the tourist areas and shoved somewhere no one can see them. Portland is more compact. But, in terms of solutions, they are few and far between. People like you will find answers because you know how to think out of the box. Very interesting report–as usual. See you next week.


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