Portland Mayoral Forum on Solutions to Homelessness
On the evening of Friday, February 12, our sanctuary meeting space was packed with mayoral candidates, their staff and supporters, the media, and concerned citizens. The topic of the night was “Solutions to Homelessness.” Some of the concerned citizens in the room that night were homeless. Some were from our neighbors at Right to Dream Too homeless camp.
This audience made for a lively discussion. I was the moderator, and in “Phil Donahue” style, I worked the room with the mic giving the audience a chance to ask questions and our mayoral candidates a chance to answer.
Union Gospel Mission is not a “political” organization, but we are a collaborative organization. We look forward to working with Portland’s next mayor. Alleviating the plight of the homeless is just not up to the city, or to nonprofits, or faith communities. It will take a collaborative effort. It will take more lively discussions where very diverse groups of people will need to work together.
Union Gospel Mission brings decades of expertise to the issue of homelessness. We have been serving in Portland since 1927. We have learned that there is not a “one size fits all” solution. We have extensive knowledge of what role addiction plays in homelessness. We have been ahead of the curve in addressing the increase in the number of homeless women and children in our community. We saw this trend in 2012, and opened a women and children’s facility in 2013.
Our city is changing. It is exciting to see the city grow amid the influx of new residents. However, there are challenges in that change. Gentrification has led to displacements, rent vacancy rates are low and the cost of housing is skyrocketing. These are challenges that leaders in all sectors of the city, the mayor, businesses, nonprofits and neighbors, will need to address.
William Russell is Executive Director of Union Gospel Mission.
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