Portlanders Address Homelessness in Listening Session at Ocean Gateway This Evening


Speakers Lined up to Address City Officials on the Homeless Crisis in Portland This Evening.

From solutions to the homeless crisis, emotional stories of homelessness and expressions of fear about occupants of tent cities, over 35 people spoke at a well-attended listening session on Portland’s homelessness at Ocean Gateway on the Munjoy Hill waterfront this evening.

In her introductory remarks, Mayor Kate Snyder said city officials receive many messages from the public – sometimes contradicting each other. “But we do need help,” she said. “We need creative ideas and operators.” Some creative ideas were part of the testimony received this evening.

A USM faculty member pointed out that there is a mostly empty campus building that could be converted to shelter for the homeless.  She urged city officials to put pressure on USM to make this happen.  Several other speakers voiced the same concept that has gained traction from the public and frustration that this concept has not been implemented.

Several spoke who live near Habor View Park expressing their fear because of its proximity to an encampment of the homeless that is growing in the area.  One man suggested installaing portable emergency shelters in the area.  A retired attorney suggested converting two football fields into encampments for the homeless with appropriate city staffing

Ann, a volunteer doctor at Milestone Recovery, asked:  How did the city of Portland get here?”   “Let us remember that the measure of our community is that everyone belongs…not everone has a roof over their heads and food, warm and most of all, respect.  They wish to be treated with compassion and understanding.  Isn’t that what we all want?” Another speaker commented:  “Isn’t it ironic we are here tonight with the landlords  trying to increase rents in the city of Portland?”

Mary Cook, LCSW, of Opportunity Alliance and the Director of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program testified:   “The same underlying message I hear is that it is somehow the individual’s failure that has led to their needs and an implication that a person is choosing to live unsheltered.  Thiis is an extremely harmful view. I have not met one person who has not wanted to be in housing…what we need to do is to recognize and acknowledge that traumas that people have and continue to experience due to our broken  system.  That is our reponsibility…”

Jo Coyne, a long-time west end resident said:  “We can’t continue this way.”  In an emotional  statement, long-time housing advocate Jim Devine said:  “I wasn’t born homeless.”

Copies of Figaro’s – A Portland Resource Guide – were available in hard copy as well as online at figarosportland.org., by its author Cliff Gallant.  gallant.cliff555@yahoo.com