“We are seeing more and more calls coming to City Hall. Our staff get three to five phone calls a week from people seeking help of various kinds. Prior to the recession we did not get any calls like that. One person called and said she lost her job three years ago after working for a company 13-14 years. Her water was turned off. She thought she had done everything right, gone back to school, gotten her masters and so on. ... It’s very frustration to watch good people suffer. I’ve never been shy to admit the problem is here in Beaverton.
“Beaverton has the most homeless students in the state: 1840 kids. It defies logic that other cities don’t have a similar problem. It’s just that the school does a good job in outreach. ... The numbers are staggering and nobody wants to talk about it. Not enough people are talking about because they just don’t know.”
— Denny Doyle, Beaverton Mayor
“With prayer – that’s how I get through this stuff every day. It’s so hard. I don’t like the situation I’m in. It’s not good at all. It’s not good for kids at all. It traumatizes them. They need a stable place to call home. When you only have some much time in a certain place because the next family has to come in. I just get through the day by the grace of God. It’s hard, but there is a way.”
— LaJaris Spann, Homeless mother living in shelter in Milwaukie with her children, ages 6 and 9.
“The demographics of poverty have changed over time in Multnomah County with the migration of poor people from inner parts of Portland to East County. That shift has definitely prompted us to rethink how we apply our resources for everything from health clinics to the opening last year of the new East County Courthouse. We are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating where the greatest current needs are for our county residents, and reprioritizing scarce resources where they can do the most good.
“We need to be communicating regularly with our neighboring counties so we can stay ahead of this trend and be working together to have the most effective response for vulnerable communities who depend on us. When it comes to poverty, all of us can do more to create family-wage jobs throughout our community.”
— Jeff Cogen, Multnomah County Chair
“We used to be concerned about the ghettoization of poverty in the central city. ... I just think any concentration like this is not good for any community. But I think you’re going to see a greater stress on neighborhoods further out. Greater stress and demand on schools that are overcrowded and whose funding is more compromised or challenged than PPS. These are communities that not long ago were part of that suburban ring that was generally seen as middle class.
— Douglass Alles, Director of Social Services, Catholic Charities
“They are working as hard as they can to try to build back their economies to get a job. But the recovery is very slow for those on the lowest end of the job market. It takes a much longer time... people are saying we’re in a recovery, but we don’t see a recovery for the homeless families we’re serving. They look and look and look and they cannot get jobs. I think that is as true in Multnomah County where we have very strong services as it is for Columbia or Clark County. The families that we’re seeing never go downtown.
“We’re seeing more and more of Clackamas County and Washington County with a growing homeless population, it’s just that there are no dollars from the fed government that are increasing. (They) cut both the funding to address homelessness and to address energy assistance and they cut the number of workers. Everybody is tightening their belt, more people are getting laid off and that’s only increasing the problem.”
— Jean DeMaster, Executive Director, Human Solutions, East Multnomah County
“The dynamic of homelessness is different in the suburbs than in the city. It’s about family homelessness. It’s taken HUD years to start looking at homeless families as an issue: HUDs focus has been on the more urban form of homelessness and not on the suburban form of homelessness. If you’re a mom, homeless with two kids, the answer is not Burnside. The answer is finding someone to double up with, amp in the forest, beg someone who has an outbuilding or an unused RV on the back 40 so I can stay there.
“Their options are fewer. I see more people who have less education, less work experience, more disability than I use to. It is about who is able to cling to a job. We see more of the three kids, no GED, unemployed for six months or longer and harder to place.
“When you look at just the effect of trauma on children and homelessness on children, it’s not good. Their lives are measurably changed and it creates burdens in the communities in which those kids grow up. We’re looking at dynamics going forward that are not good.
“Will there be a wave of reinvestment? Will there be a moment when we say this is too much poverty as a society and we’re going to make an investment to stop it?”
— Martha McLennan, Executive Director Northwest Alternatives, Clackamas County
“Fundamentally, I think that we have this incredible quality of life in Portland that we all love and makes it unique and different and a place where we all want to live. But there are people who are not able to access that economic opportunity or that quality of life. That’s an indicator that we’re not getting the job done. We have to have a regional strategy to make sure we are investing in the kind of jobs that provide access for people who are disadvantaged in different ways. We have to make sure that we are investing our transportation and open space dollars in ways that serve our lowest income communities; that we are regionally looking at strategies so that people can live in places appropriate for their families and the region.”
— Sam Chase, Metro Council, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties