By Vlad Yurlov
On October 2, Helping Hands unveiled its latest transitional housing facility. After Wapato Jail collected dust for 14 years, Jordan Schnitzer bought the facility to create a homeless shelter. Allen Evans, someone who spent years battling homelessness, was eventually tapped to lead the effort. During months-long negotiations and media coverage, many public officials denounced the plan to house homeless people in what they still thought of as a jail. If a deal had not been made, the whole building would have been demolished.
All of their concerns were addressed by Helping Hands, the data-driven nonprofit organization that is now set to offer transitional housing to the homeless population. Under the leadership of Allen Evans, Helping Hands worked with many organizations to supply the Bybee Lakes Hope Center with education, internet access, and transportation.
At the grand opening, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler admitted, “Government couldn’t do it alone.” Even when a solution was presented, the government didn’t back the shelter for months. The philanthropic community and private businesses banded together to solve a problem in an innovative way without the need for public money. To solve homelessness, Portland should embrace public-private partnerships that are led by people who know how to get things done.
Vlad Yurlov is a Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
By John A. Charles, Jr.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler hopes to spend $31 million next year addressing homelessness. This is ten percent more than Portland is spending this year. According to the Mayor, the goal is to help place people in permanent housing.
Of course, ending homelessness has been a goal of Portland mayors for decades. They never solve the problem because they conceptualize the homeless as an amorphous blob. But every person who lacks housing has a unique set of circumstances, and that background has to be understood.
It’s much more complicated than simply building more housing. Some people don’t want to live in a traditional home. They may have a psychological need to be outside. Others don’t want the responsibilities that come with home ownership, such as maintaining a yard and paying taxes. Some people have drug addictions that prevent them from earning enough income to afford housing.
While specific facts change, certain principles don’t; and the most important one is that simply giving people free stuff doesn’t work. Everybody deserves a hand up; no one benefits from a handout.
Before spending another $31 million, the Mayor should tell us what will be different this time around. If he can’t answer the question, he shouldn’t get the money.
John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.
Click here for the PDF version: