Executive directors attack Clackamas County commissioner for misinformation on homelessness
The leaders of two organizations that provide services to the homeless population of Clackamas County want to correct the record of certain statements made last week by Commissioner Mark Shull following a “ investigative ” visit he took encampments along the Springwater Corridor.
On Tuesday, April 27, Shull told fellow county commissioners he had new ideas on how to approach the housing problem after visiting homeless people and hearing their stories. Two of Shull’s specific demands gave Debra Mason, executive director of the Clackamas Service Center, and Brandi Johnson, executive director of LoveOne Community, a break.
The first is that Shull said that everyone he spoke to on his tour “has some level of self-medication” and that “drugs permeate the problem”. The second was that many of those Shull spoke to during his visit were from Portland and that “the problem evolves that way.”
Mason and Johnson spoke to Pampin Media Group this week about their own experiences and ideas as leaders of two organizations that interact daily with families and homeless people in Clackamas County.
Both said they listened to Shull’s remarks and felt that his words perpetuate the stereotypes many have of the homeless.
âEach person we meet has a different experience of why they are in the situation they find themselves in and, no, not all of them are dealing with drug addiction, and no, not all of them have one. Mental Health. Are these two problems widespread? âAbsolutely. I think we would all suffer from these things if we also lived outside,â Mason said. “So making sweeping claims that the homeless are all drug addicts – this is very dangerous and it is wrong.”
Johnson said County Commissioner Paul Savas recently visited an event hosted by his organization where he came to meet with homeless neighbors, learned their stories and more about LoveOne’s work in Milwaukie, Oregon City and Molalla. She said she would love to host Shull in the future and hopes he can attend one of their events to broaden his perspective.
“I invited Commissioner Savas out, and he agreed to come to our event and spoke to some neighbors,” Johnson said. “To me, it shows respect for everyone affected by this issue.”
According to Johnson, LoveOne comes into contact with around 200 homeless local people each month, and of those, she estimates that 80% of them grew up in Clackamas County.
Mason reported similar results, saying that customers at the Clackamas service center often share their stories with staff members and can report their high school or neighborhood.
Data from the 2019 Clackamas County Homelessness Census showed that the majority of its 1,166 homeless people were from Clackamas County.
âThe 2019 one-time tally found that the majority of people who were homeless in the county lived in Clackamas County for two years before losing their homes,â said Kimberly Dinwiddie, county information officer. “Only 11% of the total were homeless when they moved to Clackamas County.”
Mason and Johnson both said there is a need to speak up to help residents understand what is happening on their streets as Clackamas County continues to see high levels of homeless people year after year, and to help them realize that they are not intruders, but rather neighbors who have had a hard time.
âWe are moving away from the idea that these services are a handout. We have people on outpatient treatment and sobriety applying for jobs and getting their IDs – we’re going to do it on a larger scale, âJohnson said. “These people are people with families, and they have stories, and they have trauma. And it’s such a personal problem. It can’t be treated as a general problem effectively, in my opinion.”
COVID-19 has posed particular challenges for nonprofits in Clackamas County that work with homeless populations. Mason’s organization has had to shift towards delivering produce from his market which serves the homeless in the North Clackamas area with a variety of things such as food, hygiene items and the like. While this process was not easy, it provided a learning opportunity to better understand the needs of the community they work with, particularly as over 50% of those they serve have some type of disability. This will cause them to continue providing services, even after the pandemic has allowed people to return to their market in person.
Clackamas Service Center and LoveOne are just two of more than a dozen organizations likely to benefit from the county’s dollar allowance for homeless services which is expected to be paid by Metro in the coming months from the levy. of the regional government adopted in May 2020. The Board of Directors of Commissioners recently gave its approval to the local implementation plan who will oversee the allocation of those dollars, set specific goals and milestones, and serve as a guide on how to track progress.
Commissioner Mark Shull did not return a request for comment regarding this story.
SHULL’S FULL COMMENTS ON THE HOMELESSNESS, TUESDAY APRIL 27
Hello. Yesterday I visited the Veterans Village. Navy veteran Corporal Shawn showed me around. I was satisfied with the appearance and the cleanliness of the establishment. The residents I spoke to had very positive comments to say. And I think the example of the veterans village is an example of what we need to do for some of our other homeless people.
Yesterday I visited homeless camps in Clackamas County, and it was a very interesting experience for me. I thought I knew a lot about homelessness issues, but yesterday I learned a lot more.
The people I met appeared to be coming out of the 2019 H3S Homelessness Assessment in Clackamas County. They had all kinds of different backgrounds, but one thing I found interesting was that they all had some level of self-medication going on, from tar heroin to marijuana and other drugs, but the drugs permeate the whole thing. problem. The other thing I found was that the people I spoke to were from Portland, and it seems to me that the problem is evolving that way. So the problem of homelessness is so complex, it’s a bit mind-boggling. And as we see how other cities and counties across the country have been inundated with often very inadequate responses. It remains for me to think that we are, in fact, entering a period of our next crisis.
The other thing I want to make clear is that I was impressed with the humanity of the people I spoke with yesterday. They were all articulated. They were all aware, some were, some that I came into contact with were comatose. I mean, they weren’t anymore. But there is an overwhelming sadness, a kind of heartbreak of humanity, if you will. People who left the system for all kinds of different reasons and can’t quite find their way back. They are unable to resume normal life. They need help.
So I just wanted to make a few comments on the ideas:
We are building supportive housing and doing a good job there. But these projects won’t get the numbers we need to help. And by the way, let me say this: Anyone who owns property in a business around these encampments is in pain. And many of them are leaving.
We have a responsibility to them too, so putting someone who takes fentanyl, methamphetamine, and black tar heroin in supportive housing will not work. We need an immediate response, and it must look like a military bivouac. Something simple, affordable, but to get them off the streets, in a safe environment. Maybe with their showers and restaurants.
Second, once they’re there, we need ongoing mental health and addiction support. Then in another phase of longer term temporary mini houses, if you will. A lot of these people on the street said yesterday that was what they were looking for. It would be for people who have had some level of mental health and addiction help.
Finally, our fourth phase must be a kind of mini-house project, a planned community. Small houses for people who have recovered, found a job and can go to work.
Everyone I spoke to, no matter how horrible their situation was – and I’ve seen people literally burning their bodies from methamphetamine – they said to me, “Commissioner, I want to just have a chance to help me. I don’t. want a document, I want help. ”
They all strive for dignity and self-respect, and you cannot give, with taxpayer dollars, dignity and self-respect.
So that’s where we are. And I say this today because we are in a âGoâ situation. We need to act. We have to act in unconventional ways. And we have to do the exact opposite of what Portland is doing, because Portland is not helping Clackamas County.
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