SNA Community Care (SNACC) Committee Update

SNACC’s May meeting was well attended with approximately 15 guests ready to hear from, and talk with, Pat Schweibert of Beacon PDX and County Commissioner Sharon Meieran. Pat Schweibert talked about her multi-decade work serving houseless residents, the work of Beacon PDX in Sunnyside and surrounding areas, and the exciting possibility of engaging with a new community to provide a tiny home village and day center.

Commissioner Meieran presented her vision for a “harm reduction” approach that would create a coordinated network of outdoor shelter sites to provide safety, community, and basic hygiene services to people currently experiencing unsheltered houselessness. She emphasized the urgency of the problem; houselessness is a real and growing crisis for people living on the streets and for housed neighbors in all of the city’s neighborhoods. We were all very excited to hear from her because her vision really captures these missing “medium-term” solutions that all of us have been both advocating for and wanting (and ready) to get involved in.

Unfortunately, the county budget is going to be voted on June 3rd and her approach is not included in the current draft budget. Watch your news sources to see whether she is able to gain the votes needed. 

Please note that the SNACC Committee is on hiatus for the duration of the summer.  Visit the website for ongoing volunteer opportunities or reach out to [email protected] with questions or concerns.  See you in the Fall!

SNA Community Safety & Livability Update

Committee Meeting

The March SNA Community Safety & Livability meeting hosted Andy Miller, Executive Director of Human Solutions. Human Solutions was founded in 1988 to provide home weatherization and utility assistance for seniors and low-income households. Over the last 25 years, the organization’s mission has expanded to partner with, invest in, and advocate for people and communities impacted by poverty so that they can achieve long-term housing and economic security.

Andy Miller spoke of the well-researched idea that the most significant factor in a child’s lifetime trajectory is the zip code into which they are born. With this understanding, Human Solutions focuses on fighting intergenerational poverty at the neighborhood level, with a focus on eastern Multnomah County.

Human Solutions responds to immediate crises – operating three emergency shelters and providing rent assistance, eviction prevention, and utility assistance. The organization provides affordable housing, with over 650 apartments and over 200 more currently in development. Their housing advocacy is paired with job and career counseling and skills training – providing critical resources for people transitioning from public assistance and for those experiencing re-entry from incarceration and homelessness.

Mr. Miller notes that housing insecurity is a pervasive impact of our nation’s racist past and present. Black and brown people have been denied generations of wealth and opportunity — denied actual housing opportunities. Even though we’ve changed many of the laws that were in place for those generations, we are left dealing with profound consequences of insecurity. “For folks sleeping outside, you are 50% more likely to have a tent if you are White.”

Andy Miller also noted that he’s not a fan of shelters; they are an important stop-gap resource, but shouldn’t be more than a stepping stone to more stable housing. However, he notes that when he started working with Human Solutions, the average shelter stay was three weeks. The average now is six to twelve months. There just isn’t enough affordable housing for folks to transition into.

The work Human Solutions does is working; there just aren’t enough resources and people in need are being underserved. Millar notes that, “For every one person we help, there are nine we have to turn away.”
Why are there so many people who need the services that Human Solutions provides? Opinions about the causes of homelessness and housing insecurity vary widely; some blame addiction, mental illness, laziness, or bad luck. Human Solutions identifies poverty as a root cause – the significant gap between the high cost of housing and the low values of income. For example, in Portland, the hourly wage required to afford a studio apartment is $22.92 while the median hourly wages in the largest employment sectors – food & bar service, retail, and home health care – range from $12.47 to $13.74.

Andy wrapped up his presentation with an inspiring case study from Helsinki. Similar in population to Portland, Helsinki implemented universal basic income and a Housing First policy that provides unconditional housing. Finland is the only EU country where homelessness rates are falling.

The Equal Times website describes the simple idea at the foundation of Finland’s Housing First policy, “… everyone is entitled to somewhere to live, even people with complex psychosocial, health and financial issues such as addiction or poor credit ratings. The theory is that it is easier to tackle the multiple issues often faced by a person experiencing homelessness if that person has a stable home.”

SNA Community Safety & Livability Update

Community Safety & Livability Committee Meeting 

During our February meeting, we heard from Oriana Magnera, a member of the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission as well as the Energy, Climate, and Transportation Program Manager at Verde.The conversation started with an overview of the Shelter to Housing Continuum (S2HC) Project. This project is an update to the City of Portland Zoning code that responds to some of the challenges of locating shelter and low-income housing options by setting specific allowances for a range of shelter and housing types. The conversation covered a broad range of topics, with participants agreeing that the houseless crisis requires an urgent and tangible response that is not fully provided by the zoning code update.

Spot Cleaning on SE 36th at Hawthorne

In early February, an amazing group of volunteers from the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, Inner Southeast Action Network, Uri from Dairy Hill, Nancy from the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association and others turned out with shovels, wheelbarrows, and brute strength. Many hands made for light work. With 14 volunteers we got the whole 20 cubic yard dumpster full by 11:30 a.m.

SOLVE Clean up on SE Belmont and Cesar E. Chavez Blvd

Sunnyside residents joined volunteers from across the city to clean up two of our neighborhood’s commercial corridors. Two SOLVE staff members – Dan Daly (program coordinator) and Peter Brewer (founder of Detrash Portland, which has recently become part of SOLVE) – joined the effort to provide their expertise.

We had volunteers from both Sunnyside and outside the neighborhood – with one volunteer coming from as far as the NE Alberta/33rd area. It was quite humbling seeing people come from across town to help us clean up our neighborhood. Walgreens’ manager Claire generously allowed us the use of their property for volunteer check-in and as a collection point. Volunteers split into four groups. Two groups cleaned along both sides of Belmont, and popped onto side streets, from Cesar Chavez Blvd. all the way to 28th. Another two groups cleaned along both sides of Cesar Chavez, including side streets, from Belmont to Hawthorne. In total, volunteers collected about 20 bags of trash!

Community Care Committee Meeting, March 18, 6:30pm

The SNA Community Safety & Livability Committee is now known as the SNA Community Care Committee–SNACC!

Bring a snack to SNACC and join us to talk with Andy Miller, Executive Director of Human Solutions. Human Solutions is a nonprofit corporation that provides affordable housing, employment development and safety net services to ensure that low-income families have the tools and resources they need to build a pathway out of poverty and homelessness.

March. 18, 2021 . 6:30-8:00pm

Zoom link:

Agenda PDF