Appeal to ODOT: Please Stop The Sweeps

This call out was sent from Vahid Brown Jan. 28, 2016 on Facebook.

“If you want to add your name as a signatory to this letter, to be sent to ODOT tomorrow morning, please put your name in the comments. Add affiliation or title if you’d like – “June Smith, advocate,” or “Bob Roberts, Street Roots.” If you’re seeing this as a share on another page, send me your name/affiliation in a message.
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Community demands of ODOT on sweeps
The advocacy community in Portland has been united in opposing sweeps of houseless people, or the forced removal of houseless people from outdoor space where they are sleeping or sheltering, often accompanied by the removal of the houseless peoples’ property.

We have seen that sweeps overwhelm the entire municipal, county, and non-profit infrastructure serving people in housing crisis and impede organizations and agencies at every level in carrying out their mission, by throwing upon their doorsteps, day after day, an unending stream of people who have, yet again, lost everything to a sweep.

Sweeps send people who would otherwise have sheltered in place in a tent or group of tents to already-overwhelmed shelters.

They interrupt the process of getting into housing by separating people from their personal identification and vital documents.

They create medical emergencies that send houseless people to emergency rooms.

They often engender confrontation with law enforcement that end up with houseless people going to jail.

Aside from being inhumane and arguably unconstitutional, sweeps are enormously expensive and wasteful.

After declaring a state of emergency in Portland regarding housing, the City of Portland has instituted a moratorium on sweeps by its agencies and commissions. This was the right thing to do.

ODOT, however, continues to drive houseless people into crisis, and our service infrastructure into overload, by routinely posting “no camping” signs wherever the houseless are sheltering on ODOT property.

We are demanding that this practice stop. We would like ODOT to immediately take the following steps:

1. Join the moratorium. ODOT should follow the City’s lead and, in the midst of this winter weather, cease and desist from actions that displace the houseless and deprive them of property needed for survival. We urge ODOT to, if nothing else, temporarily desist from this practice until it can institute better coordination with the city of Portland.

2. Publicly report the posting of notices. ODOT must find a way to publicly report its intent to sweep people from specific areas of ODOT property. Currently there is only the posting of a physical laminated paper notice of intent to sweep made on site by ODOT employees. This is considered so mundane and routine that these notice postings are not even communicated to ODOT leadership. Nor are they communicated to the City. There needs to be transparent and automatic reporting of ODOT’s intent to sweep human encampments in such a way that this information can be accessed by the public, by the housing services sector, and by city agencies.
3. Coordinate with the City of Portland. There needs to be some mechanism whereby ODOT and the City of Portland coordinate with regard to any ODOT sweeps. Without such coordination ODOT sweeps will continue to inundate the existing service infrastructure and other creative solutions like organized camps. This coordination will require that management within ODOT instate reporting requirements regarding sweeps and identify an individual or office that will take on the responsibility of communicating with the City of Portland whenever ODOT enforcement actions directly affect the houseless.

4. Be transparent and specific on date of enforcement actions. Currently ODOT posts “no camping” notices at houseless encampments that indicate a ten day window, beginning ten days out from the time of posting, on any given day of which ODOT will come and remove property. This must be narrowed to a single date, whether that be ten days out or nineteen days out from the time of posting. The current practice is unnecessarily cruel as it leaves the houseless in a state of acute anxiety within the window of enforcement, not knowing if the dreaded arrival of ODOT will be today, tomorrow, or next week. Advocates and the housing nonprofit sector that might wish to assist the houseless in these situations are also unable to properly plan for the mobilization of resources.

5. Drop the fee for property recovery. It is unconscionably inhumane that ODOT would require of people experiencing acute indigence that they pay $2 for the recovery of their few possessions after those possessions are seized by the State. The population affected by ODOT enforcements does not generally have disposable income, a fact which should be obvious.

6. Provide transportation assistance. ODOT must make accommodation for the transportation of houseless individuals who have had their property seized and removed to ODOT’s facility in Clackamas. Simply telling the houseless that they can come get their things back is insufficient as, again, this is a community generally lacking in sufficient resources to pay for such travel. Many of the houseless affected by ODOT are severely disabled, experiencing debilitating illness or substance dependency, and are unfit to travel on their own steam. Not making accommodation for the likely disability of persons affected by ODOT enforcement violates the rights of these citizens.
7. Prioritize ID and document recovery. The single most common barrier to transitioning into housing for the houseless is loss of vital documents. One of the most common reasons for loss of ID or identifying documents is experiencing a sweep. ODOT needs to find a way to distinguish the presence of such cards or documents when it gathers up property, handle it separately from other property, and prioritize having it returned to the affected houseless. This may require coordination with the City, such that, for example, a nonprofit like Central City Concern, Transition Projects, or the city-county A Home for Everyone be given possession of the documents in a process that focuses on returning them to their owners.
8. Prioritize medication recovery. Similarly, ODOT must design a process, perhaps in coordination with a city agency or contracted nonprofit, to ensure the rapid return of medications. This and the previous demand could be aligned to transportation assistance. For instance, if a camper is not present at the time of an ODOT enforcement action and there are documents and/or medications found among the seized property, a notice could be left with a number to call for immediate transportation assistance to connect the camper with these vitally important belongings.
We strongly encourage ODOT to immediately suspend sweeps and begin coordination with the City of Portland as we struggle to deal with our housing emergency. Implementation of the above changes in the event that ODOT returns to the practice of “no camping” enforcement will significantly lessen the impact that the Department’s actions currently has on the most vulnerable segment of our population. Members of the advocacy community would be happy to sit down with ODOT leadership to discuss these matters.

Emergency Response Needed Now!

 

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Homeless and Displaced Tenants are in urgent need of IMMEDIATE Emergency Assistance. You can listen to the 1/14/16/ House Interim Committee on human services and housing here.  

  • Are you rent burdened?
  • Priced out?
  • Unable to find affordable housing?
  • Have you received a no-cause eviction?
    Visit our Help Links Page

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Tenants are joining together, organizing and finding solutions. 

Learn about Us

Visit our Help Links Page

Our Emergency Task Force Team has outlined an Emergency Response Plan to enable us to identify:

  • Who needs help
  • Where you are
  • What YOU need
  • When You need it.

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We are holding  a Tenant Emergency Response Meeting 

 Wednesday January 20, 2016

  Hollywood Library

 4040 NE Tillamook St.

Portland Oregon 97212

  6-8 PM

Come and  meet our team, share your stories and ideas 

Join Our Task Force Team

Learn ways you can help

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Displaced Tenants Can’t Wait

Economically displaced tenants are waiting for months, worried whether or not they can afford a roof over their head any longer, without real protections or assurances of:

  • Where are the emergency resources?
  • When will resources become available?
  • What are the requirements and qualifications needed?
  • How to go about accessing services

The lack of a clear and true Emergency Response is all too apparent for middle and low-income families with children, fixed income seniors, and people with disabilities on the brink of homelessness.

Our Task Force Has Outlined 4 Main Emergency Targets:

“Needed are tools, resources and Emergency Rapid-Response Networks ready to serve people in need.

#1 1-to-2-year Moratorium on Rent Increases until we can get new affordable housing stock in place and try to get this disaster under control.

#2  Direct Outreach to Displaced tenants and homeless people, finding out exactly who needs immediate assistance (what they need and when they need it).  Tenants can get their names and intake information on a Displaced Tenants Services Listing.  This would include: children, the medically needy, seniors, low-income families (especially those who lost their jobs), veterans, etc.  Children should be our top priority so that schools with homeless or displaced students can plug into the Emergency Network.

#3 Immediate Prioritizing and Allocation of Resources 

Portland, Gresham and Multnomah County officials have approved $30 million to reduce homelessness by 50 percent over the next 3 years.

Funds are allocated as follows:

  • $12.5 million to put the homeless into housing
  • $10 million for building affordable housing
  • $5 million for shelter expansions and operations
  • $2.5 million to prevent people from becoming homeless

Possible recipients will need to wait 6 months or longer until july 2016 for these resources to be made available.  Has the funding pie already been sliced and divided up?  Which agencies will receive these funds?

The City of Portland’s commitment to building new affordable housing stock is also vital, but these important tools and proposed housing legislation by Rep. Keny-Guyer are long term  endeavors.

#4  Direct disbursement of emergency funds to displaced  tenants 

Out of the 2.5 million allocated for homelessness prevention by the city, what percentage of these funds will actually be issued directly to people who need the help?  How much will get consumed by agency operating costs, filling budget gaps?  Local agencies generally have specific access criteria people must meet and service provider restrictions, creating barriers for potential recipients.  Examples of restrictions are:

  • Location
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Income

The sad part about this lack of an emergency infrastructure is that the people who need the help too often:

  1. Receive little or no notification of which agency to call, where to go to wait in line etc.
  2. Receive the run-around from well meaning ill-informed referral agencies who give out incorrect information.  This causes people who rely on public transportation to spend all day on a bus or train going back and forth using up what little resources they have left getting nowhere and receiving nothing.

This type of slow-churning ( return-your-call-1 month later) inefficient and chaotic response of poor to no-service-at-all operates as the norm.  For people losing their housing and living under mounting emergency  pressures, being exposed to additional indignities adds even more injustice to an already  oppressive rental-market system.

The Tenants Priced Out Emergency Task Force Team is developing an Emergency Services Delivery Model, filling the need to assist displaced tenants in  gaining more immediate and direct access to  available resources within the  community.

We look forward to seeing you at the meeting next week.

 Learn About Us

Join our task force team

Visit our Help Links Page

Sweeping the Displaced

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12/26/15 Nathan Starr (left) handing out food to members of the community at Pardee Homeless Camp.

Even during the Christmas Holiday, people who are already houseless and sleeping on the ground are being threatened with sweeps.

Saturday, the day after Christmas, two members of the Tenants Priced Out Emergency Task Force Team : Nathan Starr and myself (with help from his GPS) wound our way around the SE Holgate area searching diligently until we located the Pardee Homeless Camp, tucked away in a quiet neighborhood and grassy area between a long-reaching fence on one side and the 205 Freeway on the other, near SE 94th and Pardee.

Luckily the weather was dry, giving these campers a break from the flooding rains just days before.  It is unimaginable how anyone could withstand the wet and bitter cold nights, sleeping on the ground and hovering by day beneath mounds of plastic tarp enclosures.

We approached tentatively as Nathan called out, announcing our presence and intention. “We’re here to help…we just found out yesterday that you were out here so we’ve come to bring you something to eat.” A man and a woman appeared from inside the makeshift tent and immediately came out to meet us.  We introduced ourselves as I handed the man a large grocery bag filled with containers of hot clam chowder, saltine crackers, and club sandwiches — all donated by the friendly management at the Safeway on SE King Road, just 20 minutes before our arrival.

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Snapshot 6 (12-26-2015 8-51 PM)

Looking worn and exhausted, they happily accepted our offerings and expressed how hungry they were and in need of warm food.  Gina,  a 60-year-old woman, stated “I’ve lost so much weight, I’m down to ninety pounds.”

Snapshot 14 (12-27-2015 1-45 AM)

Gina -“They told me if I don’t hold the deed to the land, I don’t belong on it”

Given that it was so cold out, I felt badly that our presence pulled them out of their protective semi-warm make-shift homes.  I wanted to hurry up and gather information about their needs and levels of support in preparation for the upcoming sweep.

I spoke with several occupants of the camp whose ages ranged from 30-something to 60s.  Several spoke of job loss as being the primary cause of their houseless living condition.

An elderly man and woman stated that they both had health insurance and were receiving medical care.  The woman, Gina, said she had an appointment on Wednesday December 31st with JOIN to interview for her shelter needs.  The man, however, stated that JOIN had not been helpful for him finding temporary shelter or permanent housing.  He had been told he needed to have a source of income in order to qualify for housing through their program.

All 4 occupants that I spoke with said they would accept housing if it were made available to them.  The older man said that his earlier incarceration and criminal history had led to his homelessness, but his current mental health issues interfere with his ability to find housing. Both men expressed wanting to work.

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A 30-something youthful-appearing homeless man who lost his housing after losing his job stated, “If I could get a job doing maintenance, I could work my way back into a place to stay.”  I felt a deep sense of his longing for a future that, for the time being, seems all too illusive to him.

A valued donation from our neighborhood Safeway

Both Nathan and I were delighted by the willingness and ease with which the Safeway store manager (a very friendly woman) listened to Nathan relay the impending fate of the Pardee Homeless Camp, which is scheduled for a sweep by Oregon Department of Transportation on Monday December 28th.  They would dismantle their camp, toss out all of their belongings, and leave them with nothing and nowhere to go.

I found out about their situation on Christmas day, just before I was about to sit down for my holiday meal.  Vahid Brown shared a video interview of 60-year-old Gina sleeping on the ground in freezing cold weather, who was about to be forced out of the only meager home she has. It really broke my heart.

(Click here to see his video.)

Snapshot 1 (12-26-2015 8-41 PM)

I am so disheartened and outraged that the city of Portland (the place where I was born) has become so callous — allowing defenseless, already homeless seniors struggling with serious  medical, financial, and other personal crises to be threatened with a SWEEP from the very ground beneath their worn feet.

This is the same ground we are all born onto…the same ground that was here BEFORE ALL OF US were ever conceived….the same ground we will all one day leave behind.  I am deeply perturbed that ODOT has the audacity to disallow this woman and all of her camp community members — who represent all of our mothers, our parents, our grandparents, our children and future generations — even one square foot of God’s earth on which to lay their weary heads and ravaged bodies.

This is an egregious assault on our collective humanity. It is a disgrace upon our leadership and citizenry for the entire state of Oregon.

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This is Intolerable.

This is Unacceptable.

We will NOT allow this to continue!

Mayor Hales promised the city of portland in the Housing Emergency Plan  that he would get the homeless women of Portland off the street and into shelters by the end of 2015.  Gina and other homeless women sleeping out in the cold winter weather, wet, hungry and in dire need, are awaiting Mayor Hales to make good on his promise.

 Mr. Mayor, you have 4 more days to honor your commitment to the homeless community.  

I urge members of our community to contact our city and state officials demanding that they do what is right and humane for our houseless brothers and sisters.    

 

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Be Part of the Solution

Contact Your State and City Officials:

State of Oregon: Governor Kate Brown 

State Capitol Building
900 Court Street NE, 160
Salem, OR 97301
Phone: (503) 378-4582

Mayor Charlie Hales

Phone: (503) 823-4120

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 340, Portland, OR 97204

ODOT Director Matthew Garrett

Oregon Department of Transportation
Phone: (888) 275-6368

Support Jessie Sponberg’s Garage Project providing supplies, sleeping bags, warm clothing and food items to economic refugees.

Sign the petition to make Wapato available as a Homeless Shelter

Join Tenants Priced Out

Join Our Emergency Task  Force

For more current actions about the sweeps go here and here.

Calling for Emergency Task Force for Displaced Tenants

DENVER, CO - MARCH 10: Joyce Cheepo, a 13-year resident along with her husband Lawrence, speaks about her eviction from from Autumn Aarms. Tenants of the Autumn Aarms apartment complex were evicted and given about a month to vacate the premises after owners sold the building to developers. The complex and its tenants were photographed on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Pre-displaced low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, and other tenants (including those with Section 8 Vouchers) now priced out of market-rate housing are finding themselves just days, weeks, or months away from joining the ranks of Portland’s growing homeless population.

(see August post,The Rent Bomb)

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Pamela Gillis shares her experience with time running out, being unable to find affordable replacement housing with her Clackamas County Section 8 Voucher.

Tenants are exhausted and weary from months of writing appeal letters to city commissioners, giving testimony before the City Council, listening to Mayor Hales officially declare a Housing State of Emergency, and searching every area of Portland metro for available and affordable replacement housing with zero results.  

Displaced tenants are now calling for an immediate, city-wide, community Emergency Response.  

Join Our Task Force

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We are calling on local businesses, civic and cultural groups, city leaders, tenant organizations, faith communities, educational institutions, and social service providers; we are appealing to the property owners who have contributed to the problem; and we are calling on the public at large to stand together with fellow community members in solidarity and collaboration, focusing on the immediate housing needs of tenants on the verge of homelessness.

Creating a Displaced Tenants Emergency Task Force 

Outline of a Displaced Tenants Emergency Plan to include five essential components:

1. Tenant Registry

Establish a Tenant Database.

2. Temporary Emergency Housing

Due to the overwhelming demand, the majority of low-income housing units set aside for low-wage earners, low-/fixed-income veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities are already occupied.  Displaced tenants are left with 18-month to 5-year waiting lists.  Winter is coming soon and families with children cannot wait out in the cold in hopes of a few apartment units opening up here and there or for a handful of developers to complete one or two more affordable housing projects in spring of 2016.

Short-term Alternative Housing Options

Provide short-term alternative housing options, for example, convert vacant buildings into temporary shelters using experienced agencies like the Red Cross to implement emergency service models and best service delivery modalities.  In Vancouver, Washington, some church communities have banded together to offer shelter and other services to their houseless population.

 3. A Displaced Tenants Emergency Fund

Establish a Displaced Tenants Emergency Fund, with the proceeds to be issued directly to heads of households for displacement and relocation expenses (belongings storage, pet shelter, deposits and moving expenses) and kept in escrow until needed and/or long-term housing is secured.

4. Section 8 Voucher Accommodations

Considering that tenants are placed on low-income housing wait-lists for 18 months on average in this high-demand crisis market, extend the voucher use limits beyond the 120-day to 6-month limit to allow enough time for displaced tenants to acquire affordable replacement housing and not be forced to relinquish their vouchers.

5. Priority Status

Give priority status to families with children, disabled persons, seniors, veterans, and persons on hospice. Prioritize on this very vulnerable population on wait-lists and access to resources.

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Tenants losing their homes with no available options are very distressed asking, “Where are we supposed to go?”

We appreciate the gesture of support offered by our City Council, a yes vote on a Declaration of Emergency, stating  Housing is our city’s number one issue and giving their approval on a 90-day notification for rent increases above 5%.

However, these notifications and declarations bring no immediate relief to tenants now financially displaced with nowhere to go.

Commissioner Nick Fish admitted, “We know this is not enough and we need to do more.”

We are inviting to our cause members of our community who care about the lives of their neighbors and are willing to give of their time and offer their skills, knowledge, resources, expertise, and creativity.

Joining Our Displaced Tenants Emergency Task Force

Whatever temporary means of relief we can generate in this emergency environment, we know it will likely not be ideal. However, we feel it is not acceptable to turn our heads and do nothing.   

Offering some basic relief will be far better than leaving seniors and disabled persons with significant health challenges and families with children to sleep outdoors, on Portland streets, in parks, and in parking lots in the bitter cold of winter.

Local shelters are already over-crowded, we can expect this next wave of rent-hike casualties will only add increased competition for these very limited resources.

For agencies, communities, and city leaders to declare an emergency but then fail to engage in rigorous emergency planning to meet the needs of those directly affected by this life-threatening crisis would be grossly irresponsible.  

We have made numerous requests to city officials, offering suggestions and possible solutions.  We have shared our stories under the constraints of their council chamber 2-minute clock cutting us off in mid sentence.  We have listened to them tell us “We don’t have any answers” and watched them turn their head away in silence when asked directly,   “Are you going to just let people end up in the street?”

The current cop-out is, “We don’t have enough money to fix the problem.”

The City of Portland announced on October 22nd their plans to spend $200 million dollars on renovations for the Portland Building.  Just two weeks ago, SE community members raised $900,000 to save a few trees from destruction.

In her article No place to Call Home, Sarah Roth (a reporter with KGW News) clearly outlined the proposed funding to be made available by the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and the Portland Housing Bureau, totaling around $156 million to build more affordable housing.

These funds, however, are designated for long-term projects, which is good — but what are city officials doing to address the immediate needs of tenants whose lives are being put in jeopardy right now?

Displaced tenants can’t hang out on the streets for 1-2 years for new housing projects to be completed.  Many seniors, women, children, and disabled people will not survive such extreme conditions.    

So let’s come out of our silos, think creatively, focus on what we can do right now, and work together to generate practical emergency measures that will bring some level of temporary shelter, safety, and community support to the displaced citizens of Portland.

complete the form below to
JOIN OUR DISPLACED TENANTS EMERGENCY TASK FORC

Tenant’s Proposal Defeated By Oregon State Law

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Renters, tenant groups such as CAT (Community Alliance of Tenants), PDX-TU (Portland Tenants Union), and Tenants Priced Out, property owners, and various community groups such as Elders in Action — along with supporters and members of the press gathered in front of Portland’s City Hall Wednesday afternoon to participate in the public hearing regarding Portland renter protections brought before the council for a vote.

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Renter’s lack of Legal Power all too evident

As participants who were planning to give testimony lined up to sign-in, we were given a written statement from Commissioner Saltzman that outlined the following:

The first proposal brought by CAT, requesting a One-Year Notice on Rent Increases above 5%, was declined without discussion due to legal constraints. The city commissioners pointed out that state law has a preemption against local governments enacting any rule controlling rent prices.

The 2nd item, a  One-Year Moratorium on No-Cause Evictions,was also declined because State law allows landlords to invoke no-cause evictions, and a local ordinance cannot be incompatible with state law.

Receiving these two major defeats even before we stepped onto the council floor made it self-evident just how little state power renters actually have.

Testimony Given to City Council 

Renters across the board are drowning in a sea of uncontrolled rent prices.  Landlords, backed by state sanctions and protections, are being allowed to exert inordinate powers and a growing financial chokehold on the lives of renters.  They can charge whatever rent-price they decide (conveniently referred to as the market) and at a shocking rate of increase that benefits only them.

The rate of rent increases is at the heart of the matter

Anytime a housing service provider has the legal authority to raise rents 10% – 70% all at once and only be required to give a family a 30-day or 60-day notice of increase, the state is giving landlords implicit permission to enter your home and reach directly into your bank account.  Not only can they reach once or twice but they can keep on reaching as often as state law allows.

City council members voted affirmatively to adopt Mayor Hale’s State of Emergency declaration for the city at the local level. This ordinance puts housing on the list for cause for an emergency to be declared by the state legislature.

Renters are under financial siege and need real protections not just public gestures

We are in a financial shake-down.  Greedy landlords are exploiting upstanding renters who pay their rent on time, who maintain their units, abide by their rental agreements and for the most part get along with their neighbors and management.

Homeless-Mother

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As a tenant advocate trying to help other desperate displaced tenants about to become homeless after receiving a no-cause eviction following a sale of their apartment building–I see, hear and feel the pain first-hand of how this impacts the lives of vulnerable members of our community. Seniors, low-wage earners and people with disabilities are the first-wave casualties of this market-driven self-inflicted crisis.

Tenants addressing our own needs 
  • We need real emergency measures
  • We need to stop the rent-hike flood waters
  • We need to change current state laws that work against  housing stability and affordability for renters
  •  We need a state level Renter’s Bureau with strong  legislative powers
  • We need a renter lobbyist who can negotiate federal  funding and affect national policies
A Time for Change

It is my hope that renters are finally waking up and realizing that the good old days are long past. No longer can renters rely on a culture of good will and mutually beneficial relationships between landlords and tenants, without iron-clad state and local protections.

As CAT director Justin Buri stated, “It’s time for us to stop putting profits over people.”

Evicting long-term tenants just to raise prices and move in higher-paying tenants represents the values of our times.

Cindy Roberts from the Housing Alliance of Oregon stated, “This crisis this ordinance is trying to discuss is not a landlord-tenant issue.  It’s a rental market supply vs demand issue.” The absurdity of such a statement is indicative of the market-economy culture and lack of moral values that have, like a cancer, invaded and corrupted our collective humanity.

Jessie Spaberg went on a tirade admonishing the city council, asking, “How many years on your watch have these problems been developing?  Red tape and bureaucracy is creating the problem.

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Our Community Has the Power to CREATE  CHANGE!

We set the rules of the marketplace, and when it no longer serves our basic needs for safety, security, food and shelter, it is our human imperative to take immediate action and together create change.

Displaced Tenants at Terri Lee Speak Out!

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September 28th I attended a tenant meeting facilitated by Tenant Advocate Guy Berliner member of the forming PDX Tenants Union and hosted by Shaquita Louis (right) acting resident coordinator and 3 other tenants: Blanca Martinez (left), Sharon Bright (center), April Thorsen (rear), at the Terri Lee Apartments at 15875 East Burnside street in Portland, Oregon.

No Cause Evictions REceived

Tenants reported that on September 1st 2015 all 16 residents were given a 60-day No-Cause Eviction Notice by management informing them that the building had been sold and Fox Management was now in charge.

Management Neglect 

As I moved  through the parking lot making my way to the back where the meeting was taking place, I saw huge piles of trash and garbage piled high on the right side consisting of: food scraps, paper, cans, bottles, mattresses, large area rugs, couches, clothing and other household items strung out on the ground, turned over and or standing on end. It looked like a wrecking crew had plowed through the residence.

Snapshot 1 (10-2-2015 2-21 PM)

Near the back I saw yellow tape surrounding two large heaps of dug up ground directly in front of one of the units. It looked like someone had begun digging two graves.   I asked,  “What is happening here?”  The tenants explained that people with mobility issues couldn’t even get out of their doorways due to the blockage.  It had been there for over a week.

Evicted Tenants In Crisis

Only 4 of the 16 residents came out to take part in the meeting. Many were peering out from behind their blinds looking on as April, Blanca, Sharon and Shaquita shared their experience as suddenly displaced tenants having no money, few resources and no immediate affordable replacement housing options available.

The meeting was held outside due to the bed-bug infestation. Several of the tenants stated that management had failed to resolve the bed-bug situation for over a year.  

Broken Promises

Tenants stated that the previous manager and private owner Robert Norton had promised tenants they would be able to remain in place following the sale of the property to an outside corporation.

The agreement with tenants was part of a “Second Chance” program enabling tenants to attain affordable and long-term stable housing.

Shaquita stated, “Once the sale went through, then we got our notices that we had to move.”  Tenants received written  No-Cause Eviction notices September 1, 2015.

Though April, Blanca, Sharon and Shaquita have resided at Terri Lee apartments ranging from 3 to 6 years, no face to face meeting with management was ever offered to the tenant community.

Given this vulnerable population of: very low-income families with children, medically challenged and disabled residents (two of which had recently been hospitalized and one still recovering from major surgery), Section 8 recipients and low fixed-income seniors, the residents were surprised to find that none were offered any consideration in regards to their actual physical health and/or financial capacity to move out within the extremely limited 60-day deadline. They also pointed out that a woman living across from their unit is now on Hospice, stating, “And they are making her move out too.”

 Where Do We Go?

These women expressed worry and distress about facing this crisis unprepared and finding a new place to live within such a limited time-frame.  Given the high demand for low-income apartments, Section 42 buildings and property-based Section 8 apartments are now fully occupied.  All that is left are 1 – 5 year waiting lists.

In Their Own Words April, Blanca, Sharon and Shaquita Speak Out

“We were barely making it — before they evicted us”

April, working as a clerk at Fred Meyers for 10 years, expressed struggling with paying rent on time, even when she was working full-time and receiving assistance through the Section 8 program. She explained that it was due to the receipt of her pay-checks being out of sync with her rent, utilities and other household payment due dates.

Caught in the  Late Fee Trap

Though diligently attempting to pay all of her bills on time, April  stated, “I end up paying $100.00 extra every month in rent, because of being charged late fees.”   All 4 of the women nodded in agreement.

“It’s as if they want to keep charging you” 

No money to move

Because of on-going serious health issues, April is unable to continue working full-time, so now she takes home less than one-third of her very modest full-time income.

Conscientiously trying to keep on top of monthly utilities and other household obligations while only working part-time, she and the other women also stated,  “We don’t have money left to move or pay application fees, first and last month’s rent and pet deposits.

What to do with our Pets?

With 30 days remaining on the eviction time-line, Blanca expressed concerns about what could be done with her dog if she could not find replacement housing in time or if the new property owner would not allow pets.  Others voiced their need for temporary pet shelters and financial assistance to cover the costs.  “Losing our pets would be losing a member of our family.”

Rental Search Resources Needed

Most rental searches are done on-line and over the phone, requiring significant computer skills, access to a working computer and printer, having a phone, postage, paper and ink supplies in order to download and print dozens of wait-list applications.  The lack of access to these fundamental prerequisites often poses significant barriers for many seniors, disabled and low-income renters.  Shaquita stated, ” I can’t print out the E-mail information you sent us because I ran out of paper.” One tenant I spoke with didn’t have a  telephone.

Ex Tenant speaks about Fox management
Tenants are in an Emergency! 

Tenants with significant health challenges are scrambling to find replacement housing under extreme pressures with little or no financial resources, no time and no immediate  housing options available.

Due to the extreme rent-hikes, the Section 8 Vouchers have been rendered null and void in the mainstream rental market.  The low-cost housing market (E.g. Section 42Reach & HAP properties) has become so over burdened by an ever-growing public need that these once relied upon failsafe properties have also reached their limit, leaving seniors, persons with disabilities and low-wage earners with nowhere to go.

FOR EXTREMEly VULNERABLE
TENANT Populations
A SUDDEN NO-CAUSE EVICTION

IS NOT ONLY AN EMERGENCY

It’s ALSO  LIFE THREATENING

 Tenants Need Your Help!

Ways Property Owners Can help
  • Set aside 1 or 2 affordable units for low-income tenants
  • Ask other property owners to join our cause
Ways Home Owners Can Help
  • Clear out that spare bedroom and make it available for immediate short-term housing for a tenant on an affordable housing waiting list.

This is an opportunity for you to support others in your community and to earn some extra cash for you and your family.

  • Contact your local homeowners association inviting others to join the cause.
Ways Tenants Can Help
Help us Create aN Emergency Tenants Fund $$$ 

Talk to your friends, neighbors, business and neighborhood associations, property owners, realtors, faith organizations and others about contributing to a Tenant’s Emergency Fund.

 SIGN OUR PETITION 
Spread the Word 

Community Coming Together “Renters State of Emergency”

A declared Renters State of Emergencywas led by CAT (The Community Alliance of Tenants) in a press conference Tuesday evening September 15th from 6-8 pm, held in Peninsula Park at 700 Rosa Parks Way.

Pastor Mark Knutson of Augustana Lutheran Church Stands in Solidarity
 

Over 150 renters and supporters came out in force, stood in line and signed in at the registration table receiving a copy of the RENTERS SOS packet along with Tenants Priced Out petition flyers and copies of the up-coming Portland Tenants Union information hand out.

Tenants whose lives have been turned upside down by the exploding rent increases of 300 – 500 plus dollars per month eagerly signed the waiver and volunteered to have their pictures taken holding the Renters State of Emergency sign documenting their personal rent displacement stories.

SAM_1771

As a new CAT volunteer working the registration table, I listened intently as tenants recounted their dire situations.  One man in his forties said he’d recently received a 300 dollar increase in his rent, has no savings left and has found no available rental prospects within his price range.  He stated, “I have no idea what I’m going to do now.”  Having completed his registration he stared blankly into the stack of releases as the crowd swarmed in line behind him, nudging him out of their path. His presence quickly became subsumed as another attendee took his place at the front of the line.

As I handed a twenty something African-American young lady the State of Emergency Packet, I asked if she’d like to share her rent story and have her picture taken.  She replied, “I’m already homeless” as she dropped her head and paused standing at the side of the table.  Feeling a sudden surge of female protectiveness, I moved towards her and asked, “Do you at least have some type of shelter or something?”  She stated, ” I had to move after they raised my rent and now I have bad credit, so I can’t qualify for another apartment.  My mom let me stay with her for a while, but then she got evicted because of me and now we’re  both homeless.”  Stunned,  all I could do was offer her a hug as I encouraged her to take action by getting her picture taken and submitting her story to CAT.  She gallantly signed the waiver and marched over towards the photographer.

Witnessing the downward spiral of people’s lives is a gripping experience, especially being a take charge type of person who takes pride in being a problem solver.  Tonight, I had no answers for anyone including myself.   Today I had personal conversations with 3 homeless people, two of which were rent displaced and the other one admitted his alcoholism led to his living on the streets.  At least in the case with the young male homeless alcoholic, help was readily available.  His phone rang as we spoke.  It was his sponsor calling to pick him up to  take him to treatment.  Unlike the others he gave out a big sigh of relief and had a bright smile on his face at the end of our conversation.

Homelessness of a Family

Listening as this young hispanic family held up signs in the staging area as their father gave his moving testimony of the devastating impact homelessness has had on their family caused by unsustainable rent increases was a heart-wrenching experience.

A call out to the city of Portland

CAT’s Deputy Director Katrina Holland called on local officials and local landlords to agree to temporary, immediate solutions to the housing crisis: “We are calling for an immediate moratorium of no-cause terminations for one year.   We are also demanding that rent raises over 5% have a mandatory minimum period of one year.  30 or 60 day is not enough, either to move quickly or absorb a shocking rent increase, especially in today’s disaster-like housing crisis.  We are also calling on sympathetic landlords themselves to sign the Renters SOS Landlord Pledge and voluntarily agree to protect their own tenants from displacement.” 

How Can You Offer Your Support?

Read the August post: ” The Rent Bomb” 

Click on and sign our Tenant Petition 

Spread the word on social media

Volunteer

Leave Your Comments

Contact CAT for a State of Emergency Packet

Join the  Portland Tenants Union Group WWW.pdxtu.org

Follow Us

The Rent Bomb!

Landlords in the Portland area are hitting tenant households with hundreds of dollars per month in rent increases.  

Tenants find out about this impending rent bomb just as their lease or month to month contract is about to expire. Long-term tenants are shocked after finding out their $1,000/mo 1 BR apartment now costs them $1,400/mo.

Portland area landlords are trying to justify such unprecedented rent increases, claiming “We’re just responding to the area market apartment demand.”

The Rent-Hike Game

Property owners and managers keep adjusting prices upward every few weeks as units become vacant.  Landlords are using the steady stream of incoming potential tenants (especially those migrating from other high-rent states, renting apartments sight unseen) to further inflate Portland area rental prices, creating an exponential rent price explosion.

Who Are the Losers?

This inflationary trend is adversely affecting all renters, but especially the lives of moderate to low-wage income individuals and families with children already over-burdened with rising costs for housing and general living expenses.  Within a tight low-wage, mostly part-time job market, those who can’t afford the inflated rents often leave in the middle of the night, ending up sleeping in their cars as seen on SE 82nd ave.

Priced out!  Nowhere to Go.

Low and fixed-income seniors and people with disabilities (many section 8 Voucher recipients) are the first-wave casualties of a rental market spiraling out of control.  Combined with an over-saturated, under-funded and rapidly dwindling supply of affordable low-income housing alternatives, many Multnomah and Clackamas County low-income tenants are dismayed to find themselves completely priced out and nowhere to go.

Dorian, a volunteer hotline representative from the Community Alliance of Tenants (a local Tenant’s Rights organization), said they are receiving an abundance of calls related to the rent hike issue.

Tenants and other community members are petitioning for a moratorium on rent increases and seeking emergency housing support for displaced low-wage earners, seniors, section 8 tenants and people with disabilities.

We Are Taking Action!

  • Sign our petition by clicking the link below:

     Tenants Advocating for Rents We Can Afford

  • Click the FOLLOW BUTTON on the left and receive E-mail Updates
  • Volunteer