Desmond Tutu said “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in”. Last week I attended the “Symposium for Goodness’ Sake” in Austin, TX sponsored by Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF). I was incredibly moved and inspired to see their Community First! Village where 350 formerly chronic homeless neighbors live with dignity and independence. But this 51 acres of micro-homes, park model homes, RVs, and 3D printed homes is so much more than just a master planned development - it truly is the kind of community that I think we all long for. In fact, I stayed on site in one of their tiny homes and found it to be a place where I would want to live. MLF believes that the single greatest cause of homelessness is the profound, catastrophic loss of family and that housing alone will never solve homelessness, but community will. And for many of us, family means not only our biological family, but our friends and our community. It’s having a place of affiliation and a sense of belonging that is not constantly under threat.
As I near the end of my term in December 2024, I am laser focused on finding solutions to our greatest challenges. But in order to do that, it has been imperative for me to first understand what those challenges are. Albert Einstein said “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask”. Which is why I have spent a tremendous amount of time with our service providers and nonprofits like Central City Concern’s Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center, Cultivate Initiatives and New Narratives. By hearing from frontline workers and those with lived experience I have gained a deeper understanding of the trauma and challenges of our most vulnerable residents and the gaps that exist within our services.
Internally, I continue to work with our frontline staff to hear first hand the challenges and strengths of our programs and departments - from in depth meetings with our corrections deputies at our Multnomah County Detention Center to doing a ride along with Parole and Probation and learning about the African-American Program for men on parole.
While we must continue to provide relief aid for our most vulnerable neighbors, we must also find a way to not just house people but to provide a true community that embraces them. In this newsletter you will find a few highlights of the accomplishments that will take us in that direction.