Monday, September 17, 2007

Street Roots takes a ride with Portland Police

Street Roots takes a ride on the east side with Portland Police officer Michael Castlio, the feds meet with homeless advocates to discuss a strategy on criminalization, and Alejandro Queral talks civil rights post 911. Other features this month inlude an excerpt from our sister paper in St. Petersburg on how to survive on Russia's streets and a call to re-open the James Chasse case.

Street Roots took a tour of the Central City Concern facilities last week. It’s amazing to think how much the organization has done for Portlanders working in recovery. We still have a long way to go in how we treat addicts in this country, but Central City is doing its best to bridge the gap between the inhumane practice of jailing addicts and dealing with the realities of the streets. They also employ a hell of a lot of people who once lived on the skids. Kudos to the entire crew over there.

The Bush administration’s top agency on homelessness met with advocates for the homeless in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways to deter cities from criminalizing people on the streets. Many advocates think the goal for the Interagency Council on Homelessness is to bridge the gap between the advocacy communities making noise around the country, and the work of the 10-year plans to end homelessness.

In the past year, advocacy groups around the country have been picking up steam. Groups such as the Western Regional Advocacy Project, a coalition of grassroots homeless organizations along the West Coast — including Street Roots and Sisters of the Road — along with coalitions in rural amd urban communities in the Midwest and South are all pushing one consistent message: You can’t solve homelessness without the federal government’s commitment to public housing. Couple this with criminalization and a power struggle at local levels with different strategies by local housing bureaus, chambers of commerce and law enforcement, and homeless and housing advocates, and it doesn’t bode well for a national movement to maintain results over the long term. The feds seem to recognize the hypocrisy of criminalization along with the advocates. Whether they can pursuade law enforcement, private security and business communities to back off is another question.

New Orleans and Los Angeles have exposed the brutality of using criminalization as a method to deal with homelessness and poor people, as their affordable housing vanishes and county jails are filled with the mentally ill and homeless. Both of those cities are a living nightmare for poor people and have been abandoned by the federal government.
Locally, Portland has become the racehorse for the 10-year plan to end homelessness. And to be honest, because many of the tools were already in place when the tides rose, and having a city that is strategically moving out of the box and striving to prove ending homelessness can be done, we are doing a bang-up job. Let’s just hope the feds don’t leave us holding the bag.

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