Musings of a Beaverton Teen: Combating Homelessness

By Emery Hanel (12th Grade)brg_logo_stacked

Beaverton teens, chances are that if you are reading this, you have access to a computer or have been shopping at one of the many places where the BRG is available. This also means you likely have a roof over your head, access to food, and a family that supports you. But some people aren’t as lucky.

The United States has long been infected by an epidemic of homelessness. Portland in fact is a hub for the meandering, providing countless temporary shelters, access to single occupant housing, morning hospitality programs and employment agencies geared directly towards meeting the needs of those who have no permanent residence. There are a myriad of stereotypes surrounding those on the street: they’re “lazy”, “drug-addicted”, “alcoholics”, why don’t they “just get a job?”. While this is true for a fraction of the homeless, most of those trying to survive on the streets are mentally ill, fleeing domestic violence, or veterans with no family.

There are significant obstacles in the way of overcoming homelessness. The mentally ill, deinstitutionalized because they are not deemed a threat to themselves or to society, don’t receive the guidance for a medication routine and lack the ability to communicate with bureaucracies that can assist them. Most veterans without a home are inflicted with post traumatic stress disorder and suffer to assimilate back into everyday American life. Drugs are readily available, and as desperation and hopelessness grows as a consequence of being homeless, many turn to substance abuse to cope.

Temporary shelters aren’t practical – participants must arrive late and leave early. Moreover, the shelters are hazardous breeding grounds for disease. There are very few options outside of this, as some states even criminalize homelessness with anti-camping ordinances. As for “just getting a job”, the homeless are confronted with a catch-22: you need an address to be employed, and to have an address you need income provided by being employed.

Portland residents are aiming to combat homelessness in a unique way: community. Aided by programs such as the City Repair Project and run by members of the Portland Village Building Convergence, the homeless are able to find a home–not simply a temporary residence–and a niche where they feel they belong.

The residents of these sites, such as North Portland’s Hazelnut Grove, have sleeping pods and small houses, and there is a communal cooking and dining area. Fencing, portable bathrooms, and a garbage service is provided by Portland’s government.

While city developers are trying to rationalize expending $100 million on a homeless camp that will only provide occupancy at night, Hazelnut Grove has proven to be just as effective for a fraction of the price.

You can support the Portland Village Building Convergence by volunteering with them and raising awareness of what they do.

Let’s fight homelessness together, Beaverton!

Emery Hanel is a senior at Jesuit High School who enjoys reading, writing, and playing lacrosse.