Request for Relief from Rents, Mortgages, Sweeps & for UBI

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Request for Relief from Rents, Mortgages, Sweeps and a Request for Universal Basic Income

To Ted Wheeler and Governor Kate Brown:

Our city faces a challenge unprecedented in recent times with the development of the Coronavirus pandemic, now known as Covid-19. This occurs at a time when our social safety networks already are overburdened with a housing crisis.

The crisis around housing instability and houselessness continue to grow exponentially to new and worrying levels. Today, many of our citizens are sleeping in their cars and on the streets at this troubling time. They exist day to day without adequate access to sanitation like showers, bathrooms, handwashing sinks, or any other hygiene supplies to support basic cleanliness. Their pleas for resources to help them retain their safety and human dignity have gone largely ignored until now. In 2019, 92 unhoused people perished on the streets.

With the virus Covid-19, we all have been made to stand at attention and listen to their needs if only because we fear for our individual and collective safety. And now we face yet another threat to housing our community. The response to the virus has caused a slow down in our local economy as restaurants, event centers, museums, schools, and other public places have emptied or shuttered their doors. With the many closures that are happening, workers are losing work hours and the pay they require to pay rent, mortgages and to buy food and other essentials.

It is with this knowledge of work stoppages, slowdowns and the resulting loss of income that it becomes apparent a new crisis will be inevitable in just a few short weeks. As soon as April 1st, many will no longer be able to pay their rent despite their best efforts due to a lack of income caused by Covid-19. Some will draw down their savings and 401k, some will take out high-interest payday loans, and some will borrow from friends and family. Some will be okay. But many more will be forced into an eviction or mortgage default by a system that was not prepared for a pandemic or a crisis of this magnitude. As a community, we must act now to prevent further harm to our most vulnerable and marginalized including low wage workers and those with housing instability.

The need is urgent and so our response should be swift. We should take measures to protect all of the community. We can do this best by taking the following steps:

Call a moratorium to stop the "Sweeps" or the forced removal of houseless camps through the next 6 months. We know we currently do not have enough shelters to accommodate the unhoused in the near future. Sweeps are deadly, as well as a costly, short term tactic rather than a solution.

Place an eviction moratorium on renters for non-payment of rent as we go through the peak period of which is expected to last 3 months. Workers may not receive paychecks or even unemployment for months or at all and will need time to recover without the added stress of being houseless.

Place a mortgage moratorium to coincide with the relief to renters to ensure property owners do not lose property and enter into mortgage defaults. Mortgage defaults would of course cause all inhabitants of bank-owned properties to be evicted, possibly sending more houseless into our streets or overwhelmed shelters.

We ask that emergency Universal Basic Income be provided to our most vulnerable citizens to support their needs through this crisis. This could make up for lost wages and the loss of income for single proprietors of small businesses. Real dollars are the most efficient way to get money into the hands of individuals who have needs as soon as possible. This can ensure people stay housed and can pay for food, utilities, and other essentials.

We call on our leaders to recognize sick leave for workers is an important part of navigating this crisis. We further ask them to mandate that 14 days of paid leave be made available to workers who contract Covid-19. When workers have an illness but fear they may lose their housing and be unable to pay their bills, they will take a risk with their health, jeopardizing the health of our entire community.

We know all of these measures may seem exceptional, but they are necessary to ensure the public health and to lessen the burden on our community during this difficult time. The most vulnerable, like the working poor, and the houseless will feel the effects of this virus disproportionately and lives are at stake.

We ask that you move quickly with all speed to provide this relief before the month ends on March 31st which at which time more citizens may be at immediate risk and forced onto the street without shelter.

We ask that you do this because it is necessary to preserve public health. We ask that you do this because it is the right thing to do to support our community during this crisis.

Finally, to our leaders, who are working tirelessly on our behalf, we know that you are in uncharted territory and the map is not the land. Please allow the community to partner with you to develop a relationship that can sustain us through this crisis. Trust from the public is key. Please share the information you have to keep us well informed, healthy and housed.


Rachelle Dixon and Resident of Portland

2020 Candidate for Portland City Council