This starts an ongoing series, posting (with permission) excerpts from emails and letters I receive. I am very impressed with the thoughtful comments so many Portlanders send to me. Here's a good one to kick off the project, from a concerned citizen writing to ask for funding for programs to end homelessness:
"I have been involved in the lives of people without housing for going on three years. I know that the issue of homelessness is very complex. People are living without housing for so many reasons. Many people want off the streets. Some people are strangely content on the street and have been so for years. Every person's situation is different. What I have found though, in my studies in community development (I am working on my Masters) and in my relationships with people who have been living outdoors, is the importance of authentic relationships and the importance of empowerment. I am with a group called HOMEpdx, a group of friends who live outdoors and indoors- we deliberately try to not have an 'us and them' mentality because we want to see people as equals and made in the image of God. We try to empower our friends without housing through relationships. Sisters of the Road attempts to empower people on the street as well. I really like their approach in the Cafe of charging a small price for lunch. That affirms people's inerrant dignity. We want to affirm people's dignity. We want to empower people to help themselves. My advocacy is not for people who do not have voices. My friends have voices, they are just not always listened to. My hope in Portland is that we will empower people to be able to help themselves. I know that when people are in survival mode, it is difficult to help oneself. I also know, however that when people have the support of others, have their dignity affirmed, and are given tools to be able to help themselves, I think that people can be empowered to move forward in a healthy manner.
I would like to ask for the city of Portland to support the services in which people are not merely giving handouts (because while that is very helpful to an extent for short term for those in survival mode, it is not helpful for long term) but truly being empowering of others. I hope that there can be true accountability in how we do services to our friends without housing. I think that it can save money and that it can help not foster dependency. I guess what I am saying is that I pray we can be wise and compassionate as we give to others in need."