PORTLAND'S HOMELESS BUSINE$$
the homeless shelters in portland are a business. but whose business comes first?
For six years before I left to run for Sheriff of Multnomah County, I worked with homeless men, as the de-facto day to day manager of a homeless men's shelter in Portland. From this position I had an opportunity to observe the other major players in the local homeless business. And believe me, it is a business. Unfortunately, over the years I came to realize that neither the nomeless population they serve nor the tax payers that foot the bills are top priority of these agencies. What is priority?
FAT MANAGEMENT SALARIES!!
What's wrong with the shelter system in particular and social services in general? let's start at the top...literally.
Social services administrators are grossly over paid. From my observation, neither their produtivity in terms of homeless men still in housing after one year of assistance and support, NOR PROPRIETY...warrants their continuing fat pay checks and benefit packages. The CEO of Goodwill of Oregon has been roundly and justifiably criticized for being paid over 100K, while his handicapped employees take home a mere pittance. "Well, he's worth it," we hear the check writers say.
HEY LISTEN!! NO ONE IS WORTH A HUNDRED GRAND A YEAR WHILE THEIR EMPLOYEES STRUGGLE WITH FOOD STAMPS AND AWAIT HOUSING SUBSIDIES, AND ARE FORCED TO HIT THE FOOD BANKS TO KEEP THEIR KIDS EATING!
Transition Projects, known as TPI to those living on the streets, is another fat salary offender. They are the largest single provider of shelter to homeless men,two 91 bed men's shelters and one 55 bed women's shelter. TPI also managed a flea-bag kind of hotel under contract to corrections, where they housed people just out of jail. The building was old and disgusting. It offered bleak and tiny rooms, no hope housing for those that desperately need hope. It recently burned down, and my immediate reaction was "good." It must be replaced with a modern facility in a better neighborhood.
PEOPLE JUST OUT OF JAIL SHOULDN'T BE FORCED INTO FLEABAG QUARTERS IN SKID ROW, AND TOLD TO MAKE A NEW LIFE!
TPI department managers are essentially paper shufflers and couriers carrying mail between TPI facilities. These folks make in the 20 to 25 dollar an hour range. The real miracle workers, most with college degrees, the guys and gals behind the case management desks, busy trying to find housing for sex offenders, arsonists and people whose last job was doing laundry in prison for twenty years, begin at about ten dollars and hour. (I went to college for this?) They stay because they care. The paper shufflers stay for the cash and the extended vacations.
When I worked for the shelter system, I became a union steward with Local 88 AFSCME, a position that made me painfully aware of the chronically aggressive anti-union, position, "sorry we don't have any more money," (for you anyway) attitude of the 100k folks. An attitude not exclusive to TPI.
Central City Concern's employees belong to the same union. Central City Concern, in my opinion, long ago lost sight of their name and should be renamed Central City Not Concerned. The low income housing gurus, operate hotels that don't forgive a dept, have abandoned the population they serve. C.C.C. has become a cuss word to social service case managers, frustrated by C.C.C's unforgiving policy, in serving the population they are supposed to serve.
CCC IS A DIRECT CONTRIBUTER TO THE INABILITY OF THE SYSTEM TO KEEP PEOPLE IN HOUSING!
They help create a revolving door at the shelter. Can't get housing because you still owe CCC money for back rent or cleaning fees? Well, back to the shelter again for perhaps the fourth or fifth or seventh time and the city foots the bill. That is your tax money. CCC needs to go back and read their alleged mission statement. WHAT THEY SAY IS NOT WHAT THEY DO!
Nowthwest Pilot projects is the organization that assists homeless men over 50. There is a genuine compassion at NWPP that is apparent in their work. They care and it shows. Being older presents it's own problems and to be homeless and older is disastrous. There are homeless men in Portland that are in their 70's. Shame on Portland for allowing it and kudos to NWPP for helping this portion of the homeless population. NWPP participated in the guest bed program and houses men in TPI shelters when beds are available. Not enough beds are available!
JOIN is the organization that does the hard work no one else wants to do. They retrieve lost souls sleeping in the back seats of cars, sleeping in cardboard boxes and the bushes. They give what ever assistance necessary to get these people back into society and back to employment and self respect. JOIN DOES THE MENTORING NECESSARY TO RETURN HOPE TO THE HOPELESS! No other local organization does as good a job and their statistics reflect it. If there is one organization that deserves more funding, it is JOIN.
Even if there were suddenly 1000 more rooms to house the homeless, even if there were more shelter beds, even in the upcoming bad weather, there are thise that do not and eill not stay in a shelter. Why?? A resounding "too many rules!"
If you suddenly had no home and were facing living in a shelter, you would find you couldn't take your cat or dog, you couldn't take your kids, you couldn't take your girl or boy firend with you either. And for the next four months you could not stay out without permission after 10pm. No week ends out with out permission and even though you are working a full time job, and saving money for an apartment, not even one beer is permitted after work with out risking losing your shelter bed.
Do you have a permit from the State of Oregon allowing you to use marijuana as medicine for a debilitating medical condition clearly stated in the Oregon law? Sorry, you can't use medical marijuana in the shelter without losing your housing. This is really weird because clients using methadone, synthetic heroin, can slam down their week end take out doses in the shelter. If you need to bring in needles and inject your insulin in the shelter, that is allowed. If you are prescribed oxycodone, or oxycontin,or vicodin, hard addicting narcotics, you can use them in shelter too.
Shelter drug policy requires that Marinol, a synthetic, THC be used instead of natural marijuana recommended by a medical doctor. This is a policy of ignorance and discrimination. It assumes that Marinol is Marijuana. IT IS NOT! That is the ignorance part. Marinol costs up to $3000 a month. If a shelter client could affort to take Marino, they wouldn't be in a shelter. That is the discrimination part. Homeless men and women that qualify for medical marijuana should not be discriminated against and risk loosing their housing because their doctor says marijuana would be proper medicine for them.
Of course I realize federal funding dictates marijuana policy in shelters. Our Orwellian federal government collects a suspicious amount of data on the homeless, with their HMIS (Homeless Management Information System.) It tracks the kind and amount of services and how often these services are accessed. If the shelter does not gather data for the feds, the shelter doesn't get the money. It is the carrot and the stick. A GOVERNMENT DATA BASE ON THE HOMELESS IS JUST WRONG!!
The bottom line is this: Poor and sick homeless people must not be discriminated against because they are too poor to afford the federal government's preferred Marino. But just as importand, why do shelter administrators think they can PRESCRIBE MEDICINE BY EDICT?
Poor and sick homeless people, most with Hepatitis C, qualify under Oregon law for medical marijuana. Shelter policy that says otherwise is beggina a discrimination lawsuit!!
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