Homelessness in Portland: Part II

City officials from the United States Conference of Mayors identified lack of affordable housing as the leading cause of homelessness among unaccompanied individuals. This was followed by poverty, mental health and the lack of needed services, and substance abuse.

Housing affordability in Portland has continued to decline as rents and home prices continue to climb, outpacing incomes. The average monthly rent in Portland rose 7 percent between 2015 and 2016. That was the fourth consecutive year that Portland has seen an annual rent increase in excess of 5 percent, with the average rent increasing nearly 30 percent since 2012.

According to a recent release from the S&P/Case-Shiller US National Home Price Index that measures changes to home prices through a twenty-city composite index, “Seattle, Portland, and Dallas reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities. A full-time worker in the Portland metro area would need to earn an annual income of $49,680 in order to afford a two bedroom apartment in the metro area without being rent burdened. This would require the worker to work forty hours a week at $23.88 per hour or work for ninety-two hours a week at Oregon’s minimum wage last year.” 

For many, homelessness is a new event.

Loss of a job, health issues, and raising rents have an impact. Just under one-third (29.1%) of the unsheltered population reported that this was the first time they were experiencing homelessness.

Historical and continued systemic discrimination is plainly evident as well. Families of people of color had a higher percentage of homelessness than the overall population in the 2017 Point in Time Count in Portland.

In the overall homeless population, 15.7% of people were part of families without children. 40.8% of these children were 5 years old and younger. 24% of people of color were part of families with children.  

The figure below shows how much more likely a person of color is to be homeless in Portland than someone who is White, Not Hispanic.

For example, Native Americans are 402 percent more likely to be homeless than are people who are White and not Hispanic or Latino, Black/African Americans are 180 percent more likely to be homeless, and Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders are 198 percent more likely to be homeless. Overall, people of color are 55 percent more likely to be homeless than are White people. Keep in mind that this does not take into account the doubled-up population or those who were not counted.

Family dynamics also impact homelessness.

 Just over one-third (33.7%) of the respondents experiencing unsheltered and sheltered homelessness reported that they have experienced domestic violence. Just over one-fifth (21%) of the adult unsheltered population that responded as having experienced domestic violence responded that they were currently fleeing from domestic violence. 10.4 percent of people reporting experience with domestic violence are in adult-child households.

A bright spot in all of this is that progress is being made, housing is being built and in the case of Nesika IIlahee, meaning “Our Place” in the Chinook language, it will be a three-story wood-framed building featuring 59 units of studios, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments. Twenty units will be reserved for enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.

“Despite making up 2.5 percent of the population, Native Americans represented 10 percent of those counted as homeless in 2017. Native Americans were also four times more likely to experience homelessness compared to people who are white.”

Supporting Community of Hope means you are helping families who experience racial and ethnic discrimination, domestic violence, and economic challenges overcome their barriers to find homes they can afford in this limited market. Please give today. Become part of the solution.  

The Need (Part I)

As a child, have you ever had something happen to you that caused you to be very upset? Did you see people you love get hurt? Did you ever feel like you were being attacked and there was no one to help you? Have you felt like it was you alone against the world?

Most people in the world have had an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). The most common are extreme physical danger, experiencing or witnessing abuse, experiencing or witnessing drug use especially among caregivers, neglect, homelessness, and bullying.

Maggie’s children experienced living with an abusive father, living with parents using drugs and not caring for them well, separation from their parents while in foster care, and the stress of homelessness.

Our bodies were made to protect us when we are threatened. They produce stress hormones that give us the energy to run way, fight back, or hide. If we meet a bear in the woods, they help us survive and keep us safe. But when we experience them on an everyday level, like living with an abusive parent or never knowing where you will sleep tomorrow or next week, they become damaging. The stress hormones affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally. If a child has experienced four or more ACE’s, he or she or has much higher risk for significant adult health problems, drug use and criminal activity, and less chance to have healthy family relationships, good education, or job prospects.

At Community of Hope, we work to mitigate the consequences of repeated Adverse Childhood Experiences in the children as well as the adults. Our awesome staff is a huge part of this work.

I myself have been through hard times, one being homeless for a year. I can relate to our residents and this gives me a unique opportunity to give the residents understanding, compassion and most of all hope. Hope that with the right tools and support they can overcome the barriers that have led them to becoming homeless. I never would have thought I would be working at a homeless shelter, but working with these amazing people and with a great staff has shown me that God truly does have a plan for everyone. Community of Hope is God’s plan for me and I am blessed to be a part of such a great service and a source of hope for those who feel hopeless.

Darciea, Hope House Staff Member

Will you join Darciea to help us change lives, restore health, and give children a better future? Together, can we raise enough to increase staff wages to closer to a living wage? Give to Community of Hope today to help families like Maggie’s.

#givingtuesday Sneak Peek

All 3 Tease

Watch your mailboxes- soon we’ll be sending out our annual appeal, featuring the journey of Maggie and her family while they were residents of Hope House.  But before then, on Tuesday, November 28th head over to our Facebook page to get all the details on our Fill the Grid! $10,000 Matching Challenge. Also, are you considering becoming a monthly supporter in the coming year? When you make that commitment on December 10th, 20th, or 30th thanks to our generous matching donors we are able to not just match, but multiply your monthly amount 10X. Make the most of your gift-giving this holiday season and watch for ways to increase your giving power!

Maggie & kiddos

Meet Maggie*

Maggie is a happy, generous person who was a blessing to our household. Her cheerful smile reflects how far she has come.

Before she moved here, Maggie was involved in a domestic violence relationship. Her husband also got her involved in using drugs with him. On the surface, all seemed well, but her children were being neglected, her husband was verbally and emotionally abusing her and the children, and things began to fall apart. A call to Child Protective Services led to the kids being placed in foster care. Maggie, not believing she was being abused and not willing to quit using drugs, stayed with him a while longer until she had the courage to enter a residential drug program. There, she slowly realized how abusive the relationship was and that losing her kids was a natural consequence of the combination of drugs and abuse.

Toward the end of her time in the residential treatment program, Tara, her 8-year-old, returned to live with her. They moved into Hope House together. Maggie was grateful for the structure and accountability that she found here which was a step between the strict structure of the treatment facility and the freedom of having her own place. Here, she had the support structure and friendships she needed to transition to her next step.

Adjusting to being a parent again was challenging. Maggie moved from wanting to spoil Tara to learning to provide structure, set limits, teach her new self-care skills and give her responsibility for chores. She worked hard to share the skills she had learned in treatment and the trauma class here with her daughter so could also recover from the traumas of absent and drug-abusing parents, an abusive father and being put in foster care for months, away from those she knew and loved.

Carter, 12, initially visited his mother and sister. He had found stability and love with the foster family, and did not want to return to his mom. It took some time for him to see that she had changed, would not use drugs or go back to the abusive relationship, and that it was safe to return.

Maggie got help in parenting through classes and mentoring. She had the support of others who were sharing her journey in staying clean, parenting well, and moving toward finding a job and a place to live. It was not a smooth journey and it isn’t over, but Maggie, Carter, and Tara are a family again, in their own home, and building new family traditions.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.