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Homeless need help, incentives

Readers' Letters
by: Christopher Onstott “Mental illness, alcoholism, trouble with the law — sounds vulnerable to me,”  joked 50-year-old David (left), in assessing his chances to be rated one of Portland’s 130 most vulnerable homeless. David last week became one of the first to be offered an apartment in Bud Clark Commons.

I am what some would call a functioning alcoholic. There are weeks when if I'm not sleeping, working or getting ready for work, I can be found on a bar stool. (There are other, 'good' weeks, such as this one.)

I returned to Portland two years ago, penniless. Because of the kindness of a family member, during my transition back to self-reliance I spent no nights on the street. The roof over my head came with the stipulation that I not drink or take drugs. Given the choice between feeding my habit and having a roof over my head, I chose the roof.

In a world of relatively scarce resources, we should be helping those who would make the same choice over those who would not (Homeless and addicted: On the street or off?, May 12). In a perfect world, everybody would have shelter. But if we have to choose whom to help, we should help those willing to help themselves. A druggie or a drunk having access to free or subsidized housing over one willing to be clean and sober is outrageous.

We humans are too greedy for pure, Social-Darwinian, laissez-faire capitalism to work. But we are also too lazy for pure socialism to work. We need incentives to do the right thing, not disincentives.

Brian A. Cobb

Southwest Portland

Treatment requires abstinence to succeed

I can't imagine even the satirical genius of George Orwell or Jonathan Swift crafting a more pointed illustration of the incoherence of the social movement that is recovery than the story, 'Homeless and addicted: On the street or off?' (May 12).

Framed as an exploration of the Housing First policy, it boils down to employed 'advocates' enrolling clients into alcohol/drug 'treatment,' frustrated that subsidized housing is offered without abstinence requirements.

Unless they intend making everyone alcohol-free, anyone abstaining will live in a world where others consume alcohol and drugs (even opiates, prescribed to law-abiding pain patients). If even during the highly-motivated mindset of a recent pledge and the social reinforcement of being welcomed into a like-minded group, abstinence is too fragile to endure the idea that someone in adjacent housing might be consuming beer - so what does that suggest about the utility of techniques learned in treatment? Are 'addiction advocates' really saying that stable housing isn't at least somewhat helpful to a homeless drinker? Doesn't it sound ridiculous when stated this plainly?

Considering there's no test (to) diagnose who is/isn't 'addicted,' determining whether treatment works is muddied by most programs demanding candidates quit before enrolling. Many people quit successfully without programs and, sadly, some people don't quit even after damaging their organs, so why should subsidized housing be envisioned as some sort of handmaiden to 'treatment'? Unless it is to use the threat of continued homelessness to beef up enrollment numbers?

Trish Randall

Vancouver, Wash.

Housing recipients should give back to society

My knee-jerk reaction to Peter Korn's article, 'Homeless and addicted: On the street or off?' (May 12), was that wet housing is a ridiculous idea.

After reading what Mr. Korn wrote and researching this idea, I found that I could get behind the idea of wet housing. I know, to be socially responsible, we need to help those who cannot help themselves.

When looking at these programs, what I cannot get behind is that the people who are in the program are getting this expensive benefit for next to nothing. Most of them get some kind of income from the government. When they go into the program they have to pay about one-third of that to live in the housing. Compare that to an elderly person who has worked hard their whole life. If they have to enter a care facility, they forfeit all of their Social Security income except about $100 to $120.

If they were on the street, would they not be in danger? Don't they deserve the same deal? Shouldn't they get housing at one-third of their government-paid, fixed incomes, too?

Let's figure out ways that the programs are self-funding by putting the recipients to work within the program. Then as they recover from their issues, they may give back by having employment working with other projects that improve the lives and reduce the risks of others.

Heidi Foster

Milwaukie

Reporter doesn't offer solution

This article (Homeless and addicted: On the street or off?, May 12) is pathetic at best.

(Peter Korn) doesn't track down the number of people that have been housed through Housing First (which is easily obtainable), and is in the thousands, including families. He doesn't talk to one addict. He doesn't follow up on the number of people that have had success in other wet housing in Seatown or Vancouver.

And he doesn't really give a solution to the problem, which is resources and priorities.

Israel Bayer

Executive Director, Street Roots

Northwest Portland

Recovery programs need funds

Sad. Public taxpayer dollars pay for the programs that don't work, while effective addiction recovery programs like Portland Rescue Mission and Union Gospel Mission quietly do their work with private donations only - no help from city/state/ federal funds (Homeless and addicted: On the street or off?, May 12).

Even some of the mega-donors/foundations in town won't help them because they operate too much like a church.

Bill Miller

Damascus

Wet housing no incentive to clean up

'The (Bud Clark) Commons will allow tenants to drink in the building and, to some extent, use illegal drugs there as well. Not allowing that, housing officials say, would mean most would soon be back on the street' (Life and death lottery, May 5).

Are you kidding me? What a joke. Let's just allow them to continue to drink and abuse drugs while the taxpayers pick up the tab. These people will never have any reason to get clean. Maybe their mental illness is brought on by drug abuse. The inmates are officially in charge of the asylum.

Chris Phillips

Northeast Portland

Subsidized housing needs restructuring

I say kick the people out of the other affordable-housing complexes who are now earning more money than they initially qualified with and move the poor rejects from this program into those units (Life and death lottery, May 5).

Letting people continue to live in free or subsidized housing units when they earn too much money is just another example of government redundancy and mismanagement.

Ann Friday

Southwest Portland

Miscreants will trash commons

Once again, to heck with all the hardworking people who are struggling to hold on to their homes (Life and death lottery, May 5).

Here in Portland, those who choose not to contribute reap all the benefits. Wonder how long it will take that beautiful new building to get totally trashed.

Julie Woelfer

Northeast Portland

Objective study needed for wet housing

How should we think about subsidizing low-cost housing for societal failures (Life and death lottery, May 5)?

I find it compassionate, yet a bit distasteful, but more than that, I wonder if it is a long-term viable approach.

Let's hope for a really objective study of this project so that any lessons learned from it will be valid rather than merely ideological.

Marvin Lee McConoughey

Corvallis