Next up - Several plans are in the works, but only a couple will be implemented very soon
'Out in the Cold - What's Next?' was the topic of a panel discussion on homelessness held at Tigard United Methodist Church last Saturday morning.
While most of the 75 or so people at the meeting had not personally experienced living on the streets, one of them, who is currently homeless, gave a sobering first-hand account.
'I'm a high-tech hobo,' he said, explaining that he is an aircraft mechanic who travels around for different jobs and had left Arizona for a job in the Pacific Northwest that didn't pan out.
Listening to the man's saga were the panelists: Ryan Deckert, former legislator and president of the Oregon Business Association; Tom Brian, chairman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners; Ed Dennis, a member of the Hillsboro City Council and the Oregon deputy superintendent of public instruction; Carl Hosticka, Metro councilor for District 3 that includes Tigard, Beaverton, Sherwood and King City; and David Edwards, Oregon state representative for District 30 (Hillsboro).
Russ Dondero of Forest Grove, a college professor and an advocate for affordable housing who is a founding member of the Interfaith Committee on Homelessness, served as the panel's moderator.
One of the issues raised by the panelists was the Legislature's failure in its last session to pass HB 3551, which would have raised $60 million annually for programs to aid the homeless in Oregon.
'In Washington County, the face of homelessness is children and families,' Dondero said. 'The Portland metro area is one of 13 in the United States considered one of the areas in our country with a (homelessness) crisis in the suburbs.
'If you are homeless in Washington County, you have a one in 10 chance of getting into a shelter. We need 22,000 affordable-housing units in the county and are currently building 250 a year. We've got to raise it to the next level.'
Dondero, who serves on the board for the Washington County 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, added, 'We're hopeful by having this plan to bring attention to this issue. We need to work on different levels to make families self-sufficient - that's our goal.'
Edwards said that he is dedicated to reviving HB 3551 and lamented the 'lack of awareness among public officials' about homelessness.
For more information on the issue of homelessness, visit www.ahomeoftheirown.com or call 503-357-3282.