What happens when a group of 50 homeless people get together and create a safe place to call home? The verdict is still out.
In a time when Street Roots can’t buy a positive story about homeless and housing policy, and local and national leaders continue to communicate bad news on the budget front, Right 2 Dream Too is breaking the mold by providing a refuge for people on the streets.
We could talk about the state and federal governments’ lack of support for housing and human services. We could concentrate on the hypocricies of the city and other groups who stand on the sidelines, shoulders shrugged. We could call out any number of neighborhood and business groups who patronize Right 2 Dream Too as well intentioned, but fall back on the argument that it’s not the solution, and request that the group be removed from the neighborhood. But none of this gets us anywhere, and has all been said before.
The reality is, Right 2 Dream Too is doing the right thing.
By refusing to make a simple and appropriate gesture — waiving the fines in this case — the city is passively, but with calculated intention, closing down Right 2 Dream Too. Neither code violations nor a bitter history between the city and the property owners should stand in the way of people seeking a safe and warm place to sleep.
Right 2 Dream Too isn’t going anywhere. People who have lost everything have nothing to lose. Imposing fines is short-sighted, and sweeping the camp and jailing people isn’t an option. So what’s the play, City Hall? We’re all waiting to see.
It’s possible that Right 2 Dream Too, local government and social service providers can work together to help place people into housing. When Occupy Portland was swept, Mayor Adams and Commissioner Fish called on a number of social-service agencies to do targeted outreach. The city should offer the same kind of support for Right 2 Dream Too and be working actively to help the group satisfy code requirements or find another location.
Dignity Village still houses about 60 people on any given night. It is low-barrier and low-cost, and it has found a way, for better or worse, to succeed on its own. Right 2 Dream Too is building momentum. Many Portlanders support the groups efforts, just like they support Street Roots efforts to help foster an environment where homeless people can do for themselves.
There are many grassroots organizations and groups in this town that go under the radar day-in and day-out on a shoestring budget that help people experiencing poverty. Those groups are not recognized like many of the larger groups, or celebrated with ceremonies, but they serve a life-saving role in our city nonetheless.
Change is seldom easy. When Street Roots began, many businesses disapproved, some people in the city were disinterested or against it altogether. Others saw a good idea. Thirteen years later, we are still grassroots and have a positive effect of the City of Portland every day. There’s no reason to believe that Right 2 Dream Too can’t do the same.
In today’s economic landscape, solutions won’t always look like they used to, and they will challenge our community to think differently and work together. Solutions always do.
You can also "Making a dream a reality," written by Street Roots in January.
Find out ways to support Right 2 Dream Too by going here.