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In response to the Portland City Council and Mayor Wheeler’s announcement of its plan to end homelessness with a public camping ban and three new high-capacity camps for houseless individuals and families:

Blanchet House remains committed to alleviating suffering by offering hot meals, clothing, and transitional housing programs served with dignity. We believe that the people we serve deserve safe, dignified housing options. Along with support services that truly meet their individual needs. Proposed solutions to end homelessness in Portland must acknowledge the trauma that often led people to houselessness. In addition, we must consider the traumatizing effects of living in deplorable, often violent, and terrifying conditions for so long.

A Humanitarian Crisis

Inadequate access to clean water, laundry, sanitation, and hygiene services has contributed to a dehumanizing existence. At Blanchet House, we bear witness daily to the profound physical and mental health decline experienced by many people who seek our assistance. This includes the damage of long-term drug use.

The proposed plan announced today by the Portland City Council and Mayor Wheeler has some positive elements to it, but there remain a lot of unanswered questions and unknown details. I appreciate Commissioner Dan Ryan’s pragmatic and compassionate approach to providing “on-ramps to safe, stable housing for individuals, including those experiencing chronic homelessness.” Blanchet House’s transitional housing programs in Old Town and at Blanchet Farm demonstrate the importance of bridge housing to help people get back on their feet.

I also echo Commissioner Ryan’s thoughts on the pace of our public response. The response to the humanitarian crisis on our streets moves too slowly. It needs to scale up to address the growing number of people in need. Blanchet House is able to reliably meet the basic needs of the houseless and low-income people we serve because we have quickly and nimbly adapted our services to meet crises as they occur.

People who rely on Blanchet House for aid trust that we want to serve them without judgment or criticism. This respectful relationship with our guests has improved. This is due to the support of peer specialists with lived experiences of addiction, homelessness, or mental illness.

Portland Homelessness Plan Must Mobilize Peer Support Teams

Going forward, Blanchet House plans to mobilize peer teams to help guests expunge fines. As well as, low-level criminal offenses that can make accessing housing impossible. Blanchet House is committed to continuing collaboration with our nonprofit social services partners in Portland.

We must work together to solve homelessness. I look forward to speaking with other leaders in the community to learn how we might support aspects of the Mayor’s plans. Support that is trauma-informed and will not further stigmatize or criminalize houselessness. I hope we are given the opportunity to propose ideas to bring about meaningful and dignified improvements to the lives of the people in our city. Sooner rather than later.

Scott Kerman
Executive Director Blanchet House

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