RESPONSE TO OREGONIAN EDITORIAL - by John Hubbird
"Indignity" came from hateful neighbors and dire editorial.
The October 27th Oregonian editorial, "Visiting indignity on SE Portland" was apparently framed in a self-imposed informational vacuum There is a great deal of readily available and publicly verifiable information about Dignity Village that is consistently ignored or distorted by Oregonian editorials. Since publishing a daily newspaper presumably carries a modicum of civic responsibility with it, to not deliberately mislead the public, the following information should be disclosed to your readers.
1) By far, the greatest "indignity" surrounding Dignity's recent site selection brouhaha was the rude and unruly public behavior, and subsequent threats of violence, by fearful prospective neighbors in Creston-Kenilworth. These neighborhood residents -- at their own meeting on October 23 -- repeatedly violated basic public meeting rules by constantly interrupting and shouting-down others, and were openly disrespectful in their speech. By contrast, Dignity representatives conducted themselves respectfully, even towards rude and unruly detractors. This entire meeting is on record in Dignity's videotape archives. More recently, some of these neighbors have made criminal arson threats against Dignity, should it move into "their" area. By pandering to hateful, disrespectful and criminal behavior by "neighborhood activists", the Oregonian's editorial appears to imply that such behavior is justifiable or appropriate, provided that its human target is economically disadvantaged or homeless.
2) Dignity Village has steadily evolved -- from its admittedly ad hoc and civilly disobedient origins -- into a fully incorporated non-profit corporation, lawfully operating in Oregon, with a membership, a budget, elected officers, and an active community-wide support base of over 300 local citizens. Dignity Village now bears all the responsibilities of any other non-profit corporation in Oregon to conduct itself lawfully, so it is also entitled to conduct its legitimate business without harassment or hate crimes from people who don't share its views.
3) The editorial's statement that Dignity feels "entitled to park their tents and portable toilets anywhere they choose" factually misrepresents Dignity's history over the past 8 months. In fact, Dignity's two most recent sites were negotiated in advance with the land-owners (city and/or ODOT). Currently, Dignity Village works through a community-based Site Selection Committee that includes village residents, private realtors, professional land use consultants, city and neighborhood representatives, and advocates from the faith community. This committee contacts land-owners in a respectful and businesslike manner -- in advance -- and negotiates for legal rights to land through lease or purchase agreements. This is all a matter of public record.
4) Dignity Village has earned a lot of strong support from past neighbors, due to its respectful attitude and responsible behavior in neighborhoods where it has been. [Several past neighbors are on record in Dignity's videotape archives, for those wanting documentation]. Most who have taken the time to check out Dignity Village first-hand, agree that it is a responsible enterprise doing important and constructive work in our community.
5) Dignity Village provides meaningful opportunities to homeless people (stability, a sense of place and human connectedness, safe and sanitary conditions, employment and housing opportunities, and peer-based counseling) at absolutely no cost to homeless people or to the public coffers. Public officials are on record as supporting Dignity Village precisely because it represents a promising community-based model for stretching ever-scarcer public dollars available for responsibly addressing homeless issues. Rather than being castigated by your dire editorials, perhaps these public officials should be applauded for exercising both compassion and fiscal responsibility.
Hopefully, with more complete information and less inflammatory rhetoric, the public will be able to conduct more respectful and reality-based discussions at a neighborhood level about the pros and cons of having Dignity Village as a neighbor.
John Hubbird, Coordinator
Dignity Village Site Selection Committee
325 NW 18th, #308
Portland, OR 97209