The Leaven Community Land & Housing Coalition is mobilizing, alongside our partners at HereTogether, to make sure that both the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commission jointly fund the Joint Office of Homeless Services and pass a budget that invests in the near term and permanent solutions needed to tackle our homeless crisis.
First, familiarize yourself with HereTogether’s budget advocacy letter. For additional (excellent!) context, see this interview (minutes 13:45-36:25, passcode: !b2gnlC6 ) with Cole Merkel, HereTogether co-director and Design Team member for the Land & Housing’s Clackamas County Cohort.
- Email your city and county officials directly using HereTogether’s action tool, here. Paste your personal testimony into the text field.
- Make it official! Submit your testimony via the City of Portland’s official portal.
- Send your testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can track our Coalition’s engagement and add it to our story library for future campaigns!
My name is Maria McDowell, and I am Rector of St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church in the Eliot neighborhood. With PCRI, we plan to build The Alcena, an Affordable Living Community on our land, and I am grateful to the city for awarding the project funds. But I am acutely aware that housing projects like ours are simply not enough.
For about a year, I have had a neighbor, Kristi. When I met her, she was living in a van four lots down from my house. Kristi is kind, artistic, and always has lovely plants around her van. Kristi is also traumatized by years of unstable housing, by getting dropped from an absurdly long affordable housing list, by being a woman on the streets. She is afraid of trusting people, afraid of living too close to people, afraid of being locked in, afraid of crowded shelters. Three months ago, an affordable apartment came available. After visiting to see if she would feel safe in it, we started on the paperwork, one piece at a time. One piece was sent back because a tiny checkbox was missing. A new piece was added because the manager wasn’t trained in HUD paperwork. Kristi needed proof of SSID income, which could only come from an SSA website that she was locked out of (or the annual letter stolen from her van when she was hospitalized with Covid). She needed an expensive mailed birth certificate. And then she needed additional proof of citizenship. And then yet more proof of income. It took three competent adults to walk alongside Kristi three months of scanning documents, calling SSA and sitting on the phone for hours trying to get her logged in, waiting to receive a temporary password in the mail, turning in yet more documents, fixing more mistakes made by both Kristi and the poorly trained manager.
Three months where an apartment sat empty while Portland experienced multiple cold snaps and snowfalls. Three months of calming Kristi who was sure that she was going to be cheated, lied to, and betrayed by the very people helping her. Three months of Kristi trying so hard to maintain hope in the face of disappointment.
On Thursday of Holy Week in the Christian Tradition, the day Jesus washes the feet of his followers and shares a last meal with them, Kristi had her first meal in her new apartment. It was, to be honest, one of the most joyful Easter celebrations I have had.
But three months is too long. Moving is hard enough for those of us in stable homes, surrounded by friends and loved ones. The hope, patience, and persistence required from someone who is traumatized and without supportive resources is too much. It was almost too much for the three able-bodied, stable, and supported women accompanying her. We need generous funding for thoughtful and comprehensive solutions supported by experts in caring for our traumatized unhoused neighbors. I urge the City Council to dedicate our tax dollars to comprehensive solutions to homelessness. These include mental health and addiction services, affordable housing, and trained and well-paid case managers.
The Rev. Maria McDowell, PhD