A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Plan is not what homeless need

Written October 24th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Naptime on the porch, photographed on Oct. 16.

Naptime on the porch, photographed on Oct. 16.

For five years or so, cities and counties around this part of Oregon have had 10-year plans to end homelessness. The federal government has one too, adopted in 2010. What we have learned — again — is that making a plan does no good other than to give those making it something to do.

(We know this from other plans as well. Community development plans, for example, call for a nice distribution of services, a design that’s totally ignored in the real world. And Albany has a transportation system plan that calls for things that everyone knows will never get built.)

I don’t know whether the number of people living on the street in Albany has gone down since the city’s 10-year-plan was adopted. Just from looking around, I would say no. We may get an update on Wednesday, Nov. 4, when the “10th annual Albany Summit on Homelessness” unfolds from 9 till noon at City Hall.

Sure, as city officials point out, some individuals have managed to improve their lives once they got help getting a roof over the head. But then you keep seeing a guy sleeping on the porch of a new but still unsold house near the riverfront. And on a visit to the public library off 14th, you see an old woman shuffle across the parking lot with a cart full of possessions covered by a tarp. So the overall numbers don’t seem so important.

The federal plan (“Opening Doors”) is 74 pages long, the product of countless meetings across more than a dozen federal agencies, and calls itself “a roadmap for joint action” and a “framework for the allocation of resources and the alignment of programs.” That old lady with her load of personal junk needs no roadmap, no framework.

She needs a kind soul with courage to step up to her — instead of driving around her and avoiding her eyes — and ask: “Do you need any help? We’ve got an extra room where you could rest for a while, and your stuff would be safe.” If you did that, she might tell you to go to hell and leave her alone. But it would still be more satisfying than a plan. (hh)

2 responses to “Plan is not what homeless need”

  1. Teresa Hoover says:

    We are a country full of homeless. I am a grandmother of fourteen. I have Social security @ 894.00 per month.
    I have acquired 3 grandchildren ages 18, 12 and 9 that currently live with me. I do receive a small amount of Tanif $300.00 and food stamps of $400.00 = $1594.00 per month. This is just barely enough to survive a month at a time with no extras.
    I have my daughter’s children. She Is part of the homeless you are talking about. They live that way by choice. Both parents are meth addicts. The children were left with woman and her mate in January 2015. Since that time in January they have been homeless. It seems to me that this parent generation has disposable children. They have children, walk away, do drugs, live in the streets and have more children. I had no idea there were so many grandparents raising grandchildren. For me a struggling grandmother, I am a few dollars away from living in the streets myself. Then what happens to the children?
    I think that our homeless is by choice or created by society. Choice is the person that is spending every dime on drugs. Created is the cost of living. My space rent was raised again this year $15.00. I will have to take the $15.00 from the $75.00 I have for fuel and extras throughout the month. Here is the bonus, I received my tax statement yesterday from the city.
    I’m not complaining. I will continue for as long as I can keep the bills paid,

  2. STEVE GEDDES says:

    One option available to you, and anyone else interested in learning the personal stories of many of the homeless individuals in our community would be to attend, and maybe help at the feeding at Monteith Park that takes place every Tuesday at 6:30. There are usually between 30 and 60 individuals served, depending on the time of the month…less meals served at the beginning of the month when food stamps are issued. Many are homeless but some are not…just sufficiently financially stretched that a free meal helps the ends meet. Every one of these diners has a story about the pathway that brought them to where they currently are. I am sure a journalist such as your self could glean interesting and valuable information that could possibly give all your readers a better picture of the homeless issue in our city. I couldn’t agree with you more that the studies about which nothing is done are a waste of time, talent, and treasure. On a more positive and optimistic note, a conversation with Deb Powell of Love Inc, staff at the Consortium, and staff at Linn Country Mental Health would allow one to learn of success stories that have gotten some local folks off the streets.


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