Mayor hosts ‘Conversation about Homelessness’

Here’s what was discussed during this session, held in the Montavilla neighborhood, with a capacity crowd attending …

Those who came to the Mayor’s only outer East Portland “Conversation about Homelessness” heard presentations presented by experts from nonprofit organizations as well as governmental officials.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

So many people came to attend the “Conversation about Homelessness” convened by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on February 1 at Portland Community College Southeast Campus (PCC-SC), the “Community Building” quickly filled, and another room was opened in the library building, to hold the overflow of attendees.

The program started off with panelists talking about the “Unsheltered Homeless” with representatives of the behavioral health community, the Portland Police Bureau, and Portland Fire & Rescue.

The PCC-SC Community Building conference room is filled with people who listen to presentations before discussing the issues raised.

After a 20 minute discussion among people seated at tables, a second presentation, “Shelter & Transitional Services”, provided information from the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Human Solutions, and Native American Rehabilitation Association.

In the break before the third session, as Mayor Ted Wheeler was preparing to shuttle across campus to join the group in the Library, he spoke with East Portland News.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler listens while “table spokespeople” present consensus opinions reached during a discussion period.

“We’re here today letting the community know what we are doing to address the homeless crisis,” Wheeler began. “And, we’re also listening to members of the community concerning what our priorities should be, and which other topics we should be discussing in their neighborhoods.”

The turnout was greater than anticipated, the Mayor observed. “I’m glad to see we have two rooms, completely full of people, interested in coming and learning, and discussing this topic.

“I hope to take away from these groups good ideas as I go back to the office,” Wheeler said. “I also hope people come away with a better understanding of how we are working with this issue, and how we are putting together partnerships and collaborations in the community to be successful.

“And, what I’m encouraging people to do, is simply to actively participate,” commented Wheeler.

Portland can’t “build or buy” our way out of homelessness, Mayor Wheeler says.

Asked if Portland can “build or buy” our way out of homelessness, Wheeler began his response with a single word: “No.”

He went on, “In order to get the most-chronically-homelessness off the street – that is, those of who have been homeless the longest, as well as those with mental health or addiction issues, or other disability issues – we’re going to have to focus our resources. And we’re going to have to come together to find solutions that work!

“We already have our Navigation Centers and Navigation Teams in the community, working around mental health and addiction services with Multnomah County and others – all of these services need to come together in an effective way, to help resolve this issue,” remarked Wheeler.

Gathered around tables, attendees discuss the many facets of homelessness.

“Part of what I wanted to do here is have the public hear from all of our partners, because this is not just a City of Portland issue – it’s much bigger than that.”

During the final presentation of the morning, “Permanent and Supportive Housing” officials discussed more lasting solutions for helping individuals and families become permanently sheltered.

Providing warm hospitality, in the form of soup and fresh bread from the nonprofit restaurant-training organization called Stone Soup, are Ronit Gerard and Jessica Jauregui.

Mayor Wheeler will be hosting two more “Conversations” in March. To learn more, see his official webpage: CLICK HERE.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

 

 

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