Boilerplate response to ill-informed anti-homeless comments on social media

Arguably the best policy, but every so often one cant avoid it. Feel free to plagiarize or adapt the response below as you encounter anti-homeless comments on social media (and/or in real life).

This particular comment featured the quaint notion that all a homeless Eugenean would have to do to be housed was to get a job, so that is where I began my response.

You are sadly uninformed about the high cost of housing in Eugene today (and it is even higher in many places in the US). A huge percentage of the 2,100+ unhoused people in Eugene/Springfield have a job; 40% of families coming to ShelterCare have at least one employed member.

I met a lovely young woman at a meeting last week who recently moved to Eugene and is sleeping in her car while looking for a job. I know employed people who are sleeping in cars in our neighborhood because it isnt easy to save up first + last months rent + a deposit + application fees on a minimum-wage salary.

There are 80 families in the city-sanctioned Overnight Car Camping program overseen by St. Vincent de Paul, and 70 more on the waiting list. The waiting lists for subsidized housing are all closed. 

For those interested in basic facts, here is the annual Point-in-Time Count, in a one-page version: https://www.lanecounty.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_3585797/File/HSD/Highlights%202019%20Count.jpg.

And here is the Eugene Housing Literacy Test: bit.ly/housing-test.

Join groups like Springfield/Eugene MicroDwellers and Better Housing Together, which are working for the change that is essential to reduce the number of our neighbors who are unhoused — smaller and more affordable housing in abundant supply. Most Eugene neighborhoods have been fighting for years/decades to keep new housing out. This should not be allowed to continue. The consequences of this selfish, classist, misguided prejudice against renters have been disastrous and literally fatal for some.

Forty-four percent of area residents struggle to meet their basic needs — they live in poverty or have low-paying jobs and few assets, as detailed in United Ways excellent ALICE report: http://bit.ly/alice-report . Most Americans are one medical emergency or other catastrophe away from being homeless.

We need to stop demonizing the unhoused as some kind of strange other breed of people, because they are us, just without the social safety net we are privileged to enjoy.

Beyond that, a shocking number of them are elders or children. Eight percent of the children in the Bethel School District are homeless, and thirty-five percent of those staying at the Eugene Mission are 50 or older.

I also recommend taking the free public tours offered by Community Supported Shelters, St. Vincent de Paul, Opportunity Village Eugene, and the Eugene Mission to get an accurate picture of homelessness in Eugene today.

http://communitysupportedshelters.org
https://www.squareonevillages.org/tours
https://eugenemission.org/tour-sign-up/

Our mayor and City Councilors should be encouraging this and doing it publicly themselves, if they wanted to provide real leadership.

If you cant handle that much reality, watch a few videos on the Invisible People channel on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh4pyZUB0mNzieaKv831flA), which interviews unhoused people across America and allows them to tell their stories. Then count your blessings, appreciate your privilege, and consider what you might do to be part of the solution.

Published by Sherri Schultz

Writer & change-maker exploring micro-dwelling in Eugene, Oregon. Founder of Springfield/Eugene MicroDwellers: https://www.meetup.com/Micro-dwellers .

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2 Comments

  1. I appreciate your focus and your ability to use facts, figures and comprehensive data to address our local housing / unhoused conditions. I appreciate your obvious concern and compassionate approach. I hope to continue to have access to your postings.

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    1. Thank you for the nice words! I am actually trying to spend less time on social media and more time in the real world working for concrete solutions like Home Share Oregon, which is preparing to launch this spring/summer. Homesharing is not a solution for everyone (nothing is), but it is a concrete way to provide low-cost housing to potentially thousands of Oregonians, at 1/500th the cost of new construction, so I am devoting substantial time to helping spread the word about it in Lane County to help it have a strong launch here.

      If you might have a room to rent, or need a room, or just want to stay apprised of progress, sign up for the e-newsletter at http://www.homeshareoregon.org.

      And if you see a social media thread where this post, or others I have shared, would be helpful, please copy and paste as appropriate!

      With the City finally hiring a Housing Strategist (Sarai Johnson), perhaps such facts and data can become more generally known. I am not sure why the mayor and City Councilors have not taken leadership to share them at every opportunity, and to use their own Facebook pages and other media to get the word out, the way I see the pro-housing Council candidates, particularly Ryan Moore and Tim Morris, doing. We need to have a common understanding of what is really happening in our community, and where the needs lie, so we can all participate in devising smart solutions.

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