Sunday, January 31, 2016

Homeless for the Holidays Update

The ARCHES Project on Madison Street NE

A little more than six years ago, Salem Weekly published a piece called "Homeless for the holidays" that set out to "paint a picture of homelessness" but found in the end that "no single brush, color or canvas" could do the subject justice.

Still, the piece did paint a picture, and it wasn't one of those feel-good pictures that so often appear around the holidays.  It had numbers and ideas -- numbers to illustrate the scope of the problem, and ideas about what might be done immediately to alleviate the situation.  

In a couple of weeks, the Mayor's regional task force -- the governing body of what's being called the Mid Willamette Homeless Initiative -- is going to have its first meeting.  They're going to be looking at numbers and, eventually, considering what, if anything, they will do to alleviate poverty and homelessness in the community.  This seems like an opportune time to take another look at picture painted in the Salem Weekly piece, and see what's changed.  Taking things in the same order they occur in the piece:

The $79M NASA project did, in fact, locate water on the moon.

Mattel's "homeless" doll, Gwen Thompson, which retailed for $95 in 2009, can still be purchased on eBay for $190 (she's not advertised as being homeless).

Visits to Arches day center totaled 2,290 in the third quarter of 2015, down significantly from the third quarter of 2009.

Arches no longer offers visitors shower or laundry facilities.

Shelters still "specialize."

Sleeping in public is still cited, but less often.

Homelessness is still a merry-go-round. 

Discriminating against those with criminal convictions is still allowed, but there is now a "reentry" program that is helping some be more successful.

Thanks to the initiative of five women, there are a few public toilets open 24/7 downtown.

The homeless student count is down to 491 (2015) from 879 (2009).

The wait lists for government housing in the rural areas around Salem are unfrozen. 

There are still 1,000 housing vouchers for rural areas around Salem, and a long wait list.

The Salem Housing Authority still has 3,600 housing vouchers, and a long wait list.

Demand for emergency food boxes from Marion-Polk Food Share has risen steadily.

Salvation Army is still turning people away each night.

UGM still shelters an average of 200 men each night. 

Mid-Willamette CAA is keeping wait lists again.

The $10.5 million set aside by Housing Opportunity Bill to build affordable homes for low-income residents, not necessarily homeless, between 2009-2011 had little if any effect on Salem's housing market.

Lack of housing remains the main complaint.

The enforcement of vagrancy laws has been greatly relaxed.             

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