Day 74 of #LiveWell2017
Portland, OR just recorded its coldest winter in a generation, and one of the wettest in decades. We’ve seen a lot of snow, ice, rain and chillin’ temperatures (for these parts). Each day when I looked out my window, I was very grateful to have a solid roof over my head and a warm place to stay each night.
Unfortunately, there are thousands of people who don’t have a warm, dry home to go to each night. When I was out walking through the snow last January, marveling at its beauty, there were hundreds of people huddled, shivering and hungry, under makeshift tents and tarps all over town. Four people died from exposure on the streets of Portland during those cold spells.
Those people are not just drug addicts and criminals, though about 3/4 are either addicts or suffer from mental illness. Some are families with small children (1300 of whom attend Portland’s public schools). Some are people my age who have been evicted from their apartments by tripling their rent so that developers can gentrify a neighborhood to make more money. Some are just folks down on their luck who need a lift up for a few months to get back on their feet. All of them are human beings who deserve a warm, dry place to sleep at night.
There are many dedicated organizations trying to help, including Street Roots, JOIN, and Portland Rescue Mission, but there are larger issues at work than just trying to house people experiencing homelessness. Policies that encourage high-end development over maintaining affordable housing for everyone, lack of mental health services and closing of mental health hospitals, lack of jobs for certain population of folks. Help for them is everywhere, but housing is not.
You and I can help. We can donate clothes, money, food, and time to these organizations who are working to end homelessness. We can treat people on the street like human beings. We can serve on committees and let our elected officials know we want this problem solved. We can support policies that protect and encourage affordable rent and jobs for all. We can demand and help find solutions for housing.
So, the next time you curl up on your couch and look outside at the raindrops sliding down your window, be grateful for the roof over your head, the warmth of your bed, the fortune of being indoors and dry on a cold, rainy day. I know I am.
What are you grateful for today?