Thursday, November 30, 2006

gimme shelter from the shelter

For three nights in a row now my humble little workplace turned itself into one of only two emergency overflow shelters in the whole city of Portland. We had room for 15 people. The other overflow shelter had room for 15 people. That's a grand total of 30 people housed by the city in overflow shelters to protect them from the trecherous weather. Thirty of the one or two thousand people estimated to be on the streets in Portland every night. That's ON THE STREETS every night, not in shelters, not crashing on people's couches, not just "homeless" by definition, but actually ON THE STREETS.

Thirty more beds was a nice gesture on our part, but obviously just a drop in the bucket. Don't worry, though, the overflow shelters (all two of us) were also handing out hotel vouchers after we hit capacity.

What's that, you say? Hotel vouchers? Yes. Hotel vouchers. If you showed up too late to get a cramped and crowded spot on our basement floor, you walked away with the lamentable consolation prize of a free night in your own room in a hotel. Note the sarcasm. We gave out about 50 vouchers last night alone. Each voucher was worth about sixty bucks.

(Ok, watch out for my inner Republican:) Why is the city spending thousands of dollars vouchering people (usually singles) into whole hotel rooms at market rates??? This is a shitty way to spend our taxpayer dollars and a completely inadequate way to address homelessness especially in the face of dangerously cold weather.

My inner rainbow-fairy-liberal thinks it's awesome that a handful of homeless people got to spend a vacation from homelessness in a hotel last night. They had the treat of a hot bath and a warm bed and a t.v., things most of us take for granted. Good for them.

But considering that only a tiny fraction of the people who needed shelter last night actually got it, it seems like a ridiculously disproportionate way to allocate resources to solve the problem at hand. How bout open up a public space and staff it on those extra-cold nights? The city is throwing money at the problem, which is nice of them, but they could do it better in the future and serve a lot more people.

(Not to mention, I wouldn't have to spend six hours of an eight hour shift dealing with a steady flow of people waiting to collect their jackpots, I mean, vouchers for the night. That joint was a zoo until ten o'clock, at the expense of our own program and our own clients who had to do without our attention and care last night while we four, ill-prepared staff juggled the city's homeless problem by ourselves. Pardon my venting, but I found it to be pretty frustrating.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you really need more nipples?
is roro onto something?
let me know


10:58 AM  

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