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Not all shelters close down in spring, summer

Readers' Letters
by: L.E. BASKOW, Letter writers react to the Tribune story of Dan and Jeanette Orozco and their son, who struggled to find a home for several days in Portland after the homeless shelter they were staying in closed down in March.

I would like to commend the Portland Tribune for its front page coverage of this very important issue: The lack of shelters and housing for homeless families (Suddenly homeless: No margin for error, April 16). The article highlights that homelessness for both families and singles is a year-round concern.

However, the article suggests that with springtime comes a total loss of shelter for homeless families. While several family shelters do close in the spring, there are programs that shelter or house homeless families that are open year round.

Human Solutions operates a shelter that is open 365 days and nights each year. We are able to stay open year round because the facilities we operate from are donated; we rely on hundreds of volunteers and only two staff people, donated food and donated transportation. Even with that, we have lots of fundraising to do and always need to seek donations just to 'break even.'

We are very proud of the fact that 76 percent of the families who leave the Human Solutions' family shelter go directly into permanent or transitional housing.

When working to overcome homelessness, there is no 'one right answer.' Different families have different needs, and specific solutions must be created to address those needs. Right now, we need to increase our resources to make sure that homeless families and their children not only get off the streets but into stable, permanent homes. This can only be accomplished with volunteers, staff people, concerned citizens, civic and religious groups and donors in our community advocating with city, county and state officials to provide the solutions.

Jean DeMaster

executive director, Human Solutions

Southeast Portland

Confront the homeless situation

That was one frightening story (Suddenly homeless: No margin for error, April 16). Those people are our neighbors and cousins and colleagues. It is pathetic that a rich country like the United States - but rich for only the chosen few - cannot find money to give to families and the inhabitants of shelters that close their doors in early spring, even when the temperature falls below freezing. It is no less than sickening. It's time for Sam Adams to confront this horrible homeless situation in Portland.

Gail Jacobson

Southwest Portland

In defense of Safe Haven

It is a great thing to see a homeless family getting placed in any type of housing (Suddenly homeless: No margin for error, April 16). From personal experience, I can say that the Orozco family was very much the family that you would like to work with: They knew the seriousness of their situation, they didn't want anything without working for it, and even amongst all of the stress they continued to show their amazing love for each other.

For them I am greatly thankful. However, for some of the misrepresentation in this article, I am not.

Having worked for Safe Haven this past winter season, I don't feel it is fair to highlight one dark spot on an otherwise clean record. Yes, it is highly regrettable that this family had to encounter such a situation as they did (their disability check had slipped behind a file cabinet and been lost for days). But in defense of a great program and its staff, the situation as embarrassing for many of us, yet it shows us how one tiny action can set off the proverbial butterfly effect, thus causing the mix-up at a very crucial time for a needy family.

Being the staff member who found the mail, I can say how shocking it was. I sincerely apologize to the Orozco family, and only wish things hadn't happened this way.

However, it is unfair to depict any of the few and under-funded organizations that help needy families as uncaring tyrants of the social services world. Those of us who work among these organizations often do so during long, odd, and emotionally draining shifts. Unfortunately, the only external recognition that many of us get is in the way of criticism. We work hard, and do so on the hope that by the end of day, we will have made a difference in the lives of those who come to us for help.

Patrick Orr

North Portland

Mass transit will never replace cars

We can't build an economy on rainbows and 'livability.' Cars aren't the problem. Poor planning that doesn't integrate the realities of traffic volumes in a growing city is the problem (Bridge won't be end of Portland, April 9).

It's like people here want us to fail, and all the new residents moving here for 'livability' are just making the employment situation worse for those of us who were born here.

Just build the bridge, because most of us have no desire to live in the car-free utopia envisioned by those opposed to it. Mass transit is good, but it will never replace cars. Stop pretending it will.

Josef Hoffman

Southeast Portland