In Portland Oregon, more than 1,600 homeless persons sleep outside every night and shelters are full with long waiting lists. Without shelter from the elements, homeless people do what any desperate person would do: find a blanket, a tarp, a bush, or a bridge, and try to get sleep and a measure of warmth. Yet to camp outside, even as a means to survive being homeless, is illegal in Portland and in most cities across the US, through the violation of an anti-camping ordinance with no exceptions for people experiencing homelessness. As a result, people who are left to sleep on the streets are forced to keep moving throughout the city all night or risk getting fined or sent to jail. A decent night’s sleep is a human necessity. How do we expect our most disadvantaged citizens to get back on their feet, obtain employment, and secure housing, if they are sleep-deprived and suffering?
Please send a letter today to urge your City and County Representatives to immediately adopt a practical and humane “10-Minute Plan to End Homelessness” that at least allows people the freedom to meet their own basic needs until better options are available. In the absence of viable housing alternatives, it is vital that we show our governing politicians that the general public supports humane solutions that accommodate all our citizens!
Please take a few extra minutes to add your own comments or personalize the entire letter; it makes a difference! If you support only parts of the proposed plan in the letter, please feel free to omit or change the letter to your liking.
Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on both physical and mental health. Without adequate rest, the brain's ability to function quickly deteriorates. The ability to think, handle stress, maintain a healthy immune system and problem-solve is greatly impaired. Chronic lack of sleep results in serious medical conditions, including hallucinations, mood disorders, heart failure, and stroke. How do we expect our most disadvantaged citizens to get back on their feet, obtain employment, and secure housing, if they are sleep-deprived and suffering?
In the absence of viable housing alternatives, I urge you to immediately adopt a practical and humane “10-Minute Plan to End Homelessness” that at least allows people experiencing homelessness the freedom to obtain their own basic needs.
Please take the following actions immediately:
* Adopt a reasonable policy that homeless campers will not be cited or disturbed based on adherence to a set of guidelines, which may address acceptable locations, times, camp sizes, equipment, and behaviors (including people sleeping in cars)
* Request leniency by the Police Bureau in enforcement of expired tags for cars used for shelter
* Amend a City ordinance to allow private property owners – such as churches – to allow people to camp on their property
* Establish car camper access to parking lots and other privately owned spaces
* Develop free/low-cost property storage options for homeless individuals' belongings
* Adopt a legal framework to permit another transitional housing campground in Portland/Multnomah County
* Increase affordable housing to people at 30% Median Family Income and below, as well as increase funds for rent assistance and housing placement. Affordable housing is the most humane, cost-effective solution to ending homelessness.
This can’t wait. More than 1,600 Portlanders are struggling to survive the harsh conditions sleeping outside. With no other alternatives at this time, I urge you to change these counterproductive and unnecessarily cruel laws and adopt policies that support individuals on a pathway out of homelessness.
[Your name here]