Dignity Village provides a safe and drug free alternative to the streets, while also providing basic services like toilets, showers, cooking facilities, telephone, mail, storage, computer and health care access. All of which are basic necessities for the rehabilitation and stabilization required for reintegration into society. Although well intended, the shelter model provides only a meal and a bed, perpetuating homelessness by shuffling so-called clients back onto the streets during the day, offering little in the way of stability or security.
Does the current shelter system cultivate the values of democratic engagement, family unity, personal safety, and relationship building? No. Does Dignity Village? Yes. Does the City Council want to be responsible for denying this opportunity for committed citizens to actualize a vision of ecological sustainability, economic enterprise, and independence through self help? I hope not. Dignity's proposal guarantees those crucial aspects of empowerment and transition, making it seem both foolhardy and shortsighted for the city NOT to accept the proposal. Portland pays for homelessness one way or another. The $170,000 in the Dignity proposal would revamp the entire Village, prioritizing fire safety while underwriting safe, affordable and ecologically sustainable housing for 60+ people. All of this for a proverbial drop in the bucket. I find it ironic that a month ago the Oregonian published two articles side by side, one on the "plight" of Dignity, and the other detailing the embezzlement of money by the manager of a local shelter. And yet, the city can find $800,000 for a memorial with an annual maintenance cost of $24,000.
Ruining the so-called "fairytale" would indeed turn the City Council into ogres, permanently. The Dignity Village proposal is immeasurably better both financially and socially than the current shelter system. What the Oregonian refers to as a "fantasy" is already legendary around the world. The editorial did, however, state one truth -- Dignity Village has helped humanize homelessness, now what will it take to humanize Jim Francesconi?