It’s hard to put into words the trauma we see on the streets every day, much less how it has affected my peers and me over the years. It pales in comparison to how it actually affects the people that go through the hell that is losing a home and experiencing homelessness.
Sadly, I could tell you story after story of tragedy and heartbreak on the streets. The stories are both endless and horrifying. Life is desperate for many.
At a time of great wealth and prosperity in our community, we find ourselves at a crossroad. The Great Recession followed by skyrocketing rents and mass evictions has left Oregonians with their backs against the wall.
Highlighting the pitfalls of our system and what needs to be done, unfortunately, isn’t new for Street Roots. We’ve been sounding alarm bells for more than a decade. What were once voices in the wilderness, warning of a future where poor and middle class Portlanders could no longer access housing in the city, is now becoming more and more of a reality.
For many, it’s more than a day late and a dollar short.
I honestly don’t know what I find more traumatizing at this point – the overwhelming reality of human suffering en mass or having to debate with special interest groups and elected officials that continue to question the validity and need for new housing policies such as inclusionary zoning, eviction prevention and more ongoing revenue for housing.
In some ways I would compare some elected officials’ relationship to housing much like that of elected leaders nationally to climate change deniers. To allow business to happen as usual, one is either so far removed from the realities of struggling people, or they continue to be influenced by powerful interest groups that have no interest in being a part of a larger solution.
If elected officials can’t see the writing on the wall as it relates to the housing crisis, I find it hard to believe they are truly representing the people of Oregon. There are really no excuses left to give. A vote against smart and common-sense housing policies is nothing more than greed and the corruption of our democracy.
Local mayors, commissioners, advocates and business leaders around the state are calling on the Oregon Legislature to act. On the table in Salem is $10 million in emergency rent assistance, $17.5 million to preserve affordable housing with lottery backed bonds, and $5 million to support housing programs by raising the state’s document recording fee. In addition, advocates are hoping for $60 million in general obligation bonds to fund affordable-housing projects throughout the state.
Just as important are regulations on eviction prevention and lifting the ban on inclusionary housing, which would create a clear path for local governments to require private housing developments to include affordable housing in new projects.
FROM OUR ARCHIVES: It's time for a inclusionary housing option in Oregon
People ask: Does my voice matter? What can I do?
You can start by writing or calling your state legislators, especially for readers that aren’t people like me. I realize asking readers to contact their local representatives feels like a hollow ask. It’s not. The reality is, legislators see housing advocates, like me, coming from a mile away. They already know what I’m going to say.
Legislators need to be hearing from people affected by the housing crisis directly and what I call unexpected messengers. People like you, presumably. If you’re a Realtor or a firefighter or work in the tech industry – maybe you own a second home in Oregon. It’s your voices we need now more than ever.
Elected officials aren’t going to see you coming, and I would argue your voice actually holds more power than all the experts in the world. After all, we are talking about American politics.
You can deliver one simple message — that you support investing and supporting new regulations and policies that will support more affordable housing in Oregon.
I humbly ask you to get out your laptop or pick up the phone and call today. You can send an email, tag your local legislator on Twitter and/or call their offices today. Literally, like right now. Tell them that housing matters. Seriously. It will make a difference.
To take action click here.
Israel Bayer is the executive director of Street Roots. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @israelbayer.