Things You Can Do to Help Homeless People Regain Dignity

By Keith Vann
Contributing columnist
street roots

People experiencing homelessness are all around us. Typically, we ignore them. Frequently, we shun them. What we don't often acknowledge is that homeless people are simply people, people like us. As people, we all deserve dignity, especially those valiant souls obliged to survive on our streets. This season, let's take the time to walk in the shoes of folks who lack what we daily take for granted. Take a few minutes to say hello to someone down on their luck. Buy a cup of coffee for someone shivering in the cold. Place a dollar in the hand of someone not asking for money. Discover if any publicly accessible toilets are located nearby. Familiarize yourself with the latest sidewalk ordinances. Note the number of people sleeping in doorways in any given downtown block. Notice how early people start lining up for 9pm shelter spots at the Portland Rescue Mission (where the MAX crosses under Burnside). Spend 10 minutes in the DHS lobby at 50 SW 2nd. Have lunch at Sisters Of The Road Cafe on NW 6th and Davis. Above all, envision for yourself what it would look and feel like to have no place to call home or to even rest your butt, then act accordingly.

Yes, these are small things, but they are a start. As you progress in your practice, consider donating to or volunteering with organizations that advocate for or assist the homeless. crossroads/Sisters of the Road (503-222-5694), JOIN (503-232-2031), Dignity Village (503-281-1604), Portland Impact (503-988-6000), Outside In (503-223-4121), St. Francis Dining Hall (503-234-2028), Wallace Medical Concern (503-274-1577), Potluck in the Park (503-255-7611), Daywatch/Nightwatch (503-228-7331), New Avenues for Youth (503-224-4339), P:ear (503-228-6677), LIFE Center (503-284-6878), Southeast Uplift's Homelessness Working Group (503-232-0010 x19), and street roots (503-228-5657) are just a few of the many worthy local organizations assisting homeless people. You can also dial the United Way's 2-1-1 (now operational in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, and Clark counties) for referral to other worthy organizations.

Some of you might also consider the possibility of involvement in civic efforts to eradicate homelessness. A good place to start is with Portland and Multnomah County's 10-year Plan to Address Homelessness "Home Again". This is a living document providing an overview of existing efforts and offering strategies for dramatically reducing local homelessness within 10 years. It is scheduled to be unveiled on December 20 from 10am - 11:30am at Central City Concern's New Rose Quarter Housing Project on 10 NE Weidler. Call 503-823-2375 for details.

I, for one, sincerely believe that homelessness can be resolved. Although, it may not be possible to complete avoid temporary calamities, I believe that Portland can ensure that everyone who wants or needs a home has access to one.