Portland is officially in a housing emergency. Last year in October, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to approve the emergency declaration, which allows leaders to bypass city code and use day-storage facilities as well as other city properties as emergency homeless shelters.

This plan has not solved the issue but merely created flexibility for the city to address the crisis. According to an article from The Oregonian written by Anna Griffin in 2015, “The last time anti-poverty advocates counted, almost 3,000 people were without shelter in Multnomah, Clackamas, Clark and Washington counties — and experts say the actual number of people with nowhere to sleep in the Portland region is likely three to four times that.”

It’s easy to blame people for being homeless.It’s easy to blame the drug addicts for not staying clean, the mentally ill for not taking their medications, or the unemployed man for not trying hard enough to look for a job. But I think the root causes of homelessness start at a higher level and go back generations.One root could be Oregon’s past of exclusivity that has made it harder for people of color to obtain housing.All in all, historians and residents say, Oregon has never been particularly welcoming to minorities. The history of Portland still impacts African Americans to this day. When Oregon entered the Union in 1859, it explicitly forbade black people from living in it’s borders, the only state to do so.

This racist sentiment then permeated itself into real estate laws and regulations.

In 1919 the Realty Board of Portland had approved a Code of Ethics forbidding realtors and bankers from selling or giving loans to minorities for properties located in white neighborhoods. The only neighborhood that was open if these people wanted to stay in the city was Albina and it emerged as a popular place for black porters who worked in Union Station to live. More recently Albina has been the  site of constant urban renewal. As a result of urban renewal and gentrification in the city of Portland, minorities are being pushed out of their neighborhoods and even to other towns such as Hillsboro and Forest Grove.

Hopefully this influx of funds and flexibility with this emergency housing plan will help get us closer to a solution.

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