Home Forward is the slick new name for the Housing Authority of Portland (HAP). Last year they laid out a six figure sum in the course of launching their new brand and website. Did the thousands of residents in HF properties have a right to expect the culture of the organization to change along with its name and logo? This, from their mission statement sounds promising:
'The mission of Home Forward is to assure that the people of the community are sheltered. Home Forward has a special responsibility to those who encounter barriers to housing because of income, disability or special need.'
The reality, of course, is that residents know from experience that it will take more than corporate re-branding to alter their real experience of an infamously bullying and rude institution. A more honest statement of HAP/HF practice might be:
'If you have a grievance, we don't want to hear it. If you complain, we'll make you sorry you did.'
Portland Solidarity Network has been standing in support of Gary and Julie Frost, both disabled, low-income residents of HF property Humboldt Gardens and both facing eviction before the end of this month. The eviction order is their punishment for having the temerity to complain when HF delayed installing handrails needed in their apartment; for having the cheek to assist their neighbors at Humboldt Gardens in filing complaints of their own.
In the course of supporting Gary and Julie's efforts to fight this injustice, Portland Solidarity Network has repeatedly encountered residents living in fear of HAP/HF as well as former tenants booted out on the flimsiest of pretexts.
As wheelchair users with high medical needs and low income, the Frosts see their apartment as more than a home; it is their lifeline. They won't allow themselves to be pushed quietly onto the streets. Portland Solidarity Network has undertaken to support them and has plans to escalate actions in the pursuit of a just outcome.
To date, it's been pickets and protests, leaflets and posters, phone-ins and petitions. The next phase will require throwing a spanner in the works; showing Home Forward that their version of business-as-usual is coming to an end.
There's a website ( http://www.homeforwardishomebackward.org/,) tasked with updating progress in the Frosts struggle, and hopefully growing to become a repository for some of the stories carried by HF residents, stories that until now have been denied oxygen. The absence of a voice and powerlessness of Home Forward residents has fueled the institutions cruelty. Breaking that cycle of powerlessness is the first step in forcing that institution to take another look at its stated aims and purpose.