By editorial board • 

Homeless can be helped, but only if they’re visible

McMinnville officials might allow owners of industrial land the opportunity to volunteer his or her property for short-term transitional housing for homeless people.

That means dealing with a problematic population as well as scorn and aggressive opposition from neighbors — all in the name of goodwill.

So what do you say? Any takers?

Curiously, few people seem to step forward when units of state and local government allow them the chance to incur the wrath of the community at large while offering little or no insurance against the problems that serving the homeless inevitably create. That’s because the situation is all enmity without indemnity.

The McMinnville City Council has yet to decide whether to offer “floating zones” for housing on industrial land, but for a preview of volunteer zeal, examine the city’s car camping program.

Councilors passed an ordinance in the fall of 2018 allowing private citizens and businesses to open their property to small numbers of homeless people relegated to camping in cars.

It’s hard to count how many people volunteered their property because they don’t have to register with the city. However, the only confirmed volunteer is Joan Drabkin, mother of Councilor Remy Drabkin. We suspect there are few others.

State officials want to offer people similar opportunities to help the homeless. House Bill 4001 would enable churches and nonprofit organizations to provide homeless shelters through July 1, 2021, even if those shelters conflict with local zoning laws.

These local and state efforts fairly reek of good intentions, but that’s all — good intentions. They have little chance of achieving any demonstrable impact on a homeless problem of crisis proportions.

What would work? That’s the $60 million question. Literally.

Unless it’s shredded as it passes through the legislative meat grinder, House Bill 4001 will provide $60 million to Oregon Housing and Community Services to fund grants and technical assistance for programs that might actually accomplish something.

However, there is a larger and more fundamental philosophical barrier to effectively addressing homelessness: Many residents of the community want homelessness addressed only as long as it’s not done so in front of them. Many prefer the homeless to be invisible.

That sentiment creates a huge roadblock to providing warming centers, let alone tiny house villages and other places where people might find shelter.

As a society, we must also consider the underlying political and economic reasons homelessness has proliferated in recent years.

In the meantime, there may indeed be ways to help the homeless and move them off the streets and provide them with shelter in humane and sanitary conditions that are properly managed and also respect their rights as human beings. Those efforts apparently have to be found, however, in the absence of widespread community support.

Some of the proposals on the state and local levels might actually be effective if more affluent people were willing to accept the existence of poverty in their midst.

Comments

PAO

I'm having difficulty in understanding exactly what this editorial is trying to say. Several situations are cited and the wrap-up sentence appears to lay the blame at the feet of the affluent, who are obviously the root of all that's wrong with society.

I don't have the answer to The Homeless Problem, especially because I don't think there is "a" problem. There are multiple problems that we're trying to treat the same way. The end result of homelessness is the same, but the pathway to that result varies and so the solution should vary.

There's the path of being laid off from a job. There's mental illness. There's drug dependency. And there's even lifestyle choice of homelessness. There are several other layers in addition to the broad categories I listed.

If I had industrial land, I wouldn't volunteer it either. It's not because I'm unfeeling. It's because it's presented as transitional, but transitional to what? Right now, I just see the industrial land proposal as a place the warehouse the "problem." Where's the skill set component of items like job training/retraining, money management and possibly even family planning?

And I'm not sure if residents want all homelessness to be invisible or if the issue is more along the lines wanting to avoid confrontations with mentally ill and/or under the influence people. I've had a few of those myself and I prefer to avoid situations that I obviously need more training to manage. I don't know if the confrontations I had were with homeless or housed people. The situations were still stressful.

So I'll selfishly continue to support foodbanks, Give A Little Foundation, and through those, the student support services being established in our local schools because I clearly haven't accepted that there is need in our community.

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