I am getting today’s essay off early because this evening I will be in Gaston, Oregon where I spent the early years of my life. Today’s essay is short but important. It’s a continuation of yesterday’s discussion of CardsCook.
If you live in Portland, you know about what has been dubbed “the homeless rocks.” The city of Portland couldn’t solve the root problem of homelessness so they dropped thousands of boulders along the highways and the waterfront to prevent people from being able to sleep in these areas. In addition to this, the biggest news in Portland today is the fact that our famous food cart block in downtown Portland is being shut down in order to make way for a Rtiz Carlton hotel (a new article says the Carlton will keep the food carts somehow, but this is beside the point). If you live in Portland you know that this area of Portland is rampant with homeless people. It is hard to escape the amount of homeless people in our city when you go downtown, but this block in particular is a prime area for them. The other day, my friend who works at Nordstroms told me how shocked she was that so many people come to her to return tens of thousands of dollars of clothes. She remarked that there is so much wealth in our city while right outside Nordstroms several people are begging for money.
This duality interests me. A Ritz sprouting up in our poverty stricken downtown, people begging for money outside Nordstroms, and the city – instead of doing something – answers the problem by dropping boulders.
This begins to beg the question: does wealth always accompany poverty? New York, LA, Chicago. If you look at lists with the worst homelessness, it brings up some of the country’s wealthiest cities. Does Portland have to be one? No. The city needs to subsidies low-income housing, invest in companies hiring people who are homeless, and encourage more of the private sector to help out with the issue. These aren’t things I’ve invented, these are things that are done in cities where the homeless issue hasn’t taken a huge toll. But one thing the city can’t do is do what Oregon Harbor of Hope did. Oregon Harbor of Hope was asked by the city to create a Mobile Shower Unit. Now first off, let me say that OHOH does incredible work and is one of the only groups in our city actually doing something. Bravo to them. But the mobile shower unit never made sense to me.
The idea was good, I guess. It’s a truck that goes around to different homeless camps and washes clothes and gives people showers and first aid, with the idea that people who look and smell good can get jobs and improve their lives. This makes sense and I think is correct. However, the math didn’t add up. Millions were to be spent on two or three of these trucks. These trucks can help only a couple people a day in a city with anywhere from 2-5 thousand homeless people. One shower for a couple people every once and a while was not worth the resources it cost, in my opinion. It’s a creative idea, but the math never made sense to me.
This isn’t on Oregon Harbor of Hope. They do phenomenal work. This is on the city of Portland for not having a 4-year plan about what to do. At CardsCook, my team and I came up with a three-year plan – because we knew when we started our Sophmore year we had three years left. #1 was to serve over 10 thousand meals. #2 was to spread to five schools. #3 was to receive national attention for our program. #4 was to have a clear and successful succession plan. As previously discussed, not all of this happened. #1 happened and so did #3. We didn’t do all four. But at least we called out what we were going to do. People knew this plan. Ask Ben and Alex. this plan was clear from the start and we did what we could to check off all four. If the Mayor said here are the four things we will do in the next four years and only two of them happened, he would be re-elected immediately. Instead, there are reports coming out that he hates the job and is unmotivated. The mayor told Oregon Harbor of Hope to solve homelessness and as hard as they are working, it won’t work. One group can only do so much when no guidance is given. The mayor should have come out on day one, assembled every wealthy person, businessman, and homeless shelter owner and made sure everyone was on the same page for his timeline. That would prevent all these programs from wasting money on side projects and allow everyone to work together.
I don’t mean to bash on the city, cause what have I done in my life? So that’s it. No more homeless talk. At least for the time being. We will talk about fun stuff tomorrow, I’m sure. Watch out.