Help Your Neighbors!

Torben Karl

Welcoming students back from their winter break, Kara Tambellini’s Literary Journalism class announced a new donations drive. Partnering with Portland organization William Temple House, the drive will be open until January 27th.

In Portland, homelessness is a continually worsening and wide-reaching issue. In 2017, it was estimated that a rough total of 38,000 people experienced homelessness in the Portland metro area (according to PSU’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative). The 2020 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report conducted by The U.S. Department of Urban Development shows that a whopping 61% of the homeless population in Oregon are unsheltered—the highest percentage of any state. 

Even in states like New York, where the homeless population is almost double that of Oregon’s, that percentage is under 5% (Office of Community Planning and Development).

On top of the constant desperation and din of uncertainty that being homeless causes, Portland also poses its issues to the unhoused. 

Weather is undoubtedly one of the worst of these. Annual rainfall of 49.9 inches means that the pressure to find a solid roof is unrelenting and having dry feet is a rarity during the winter months. Horrifyingly, foot rot, a crippling fungal infection of the feet, is commonplace among the homeless in Portland through the fall and winter. 

Over the summer of 2021, massive Northwest heatwaves of over 110 degrees caused heat stroke for those without a sheltered refuge from the sun. 

These and countless other physical and mental afflictions only compound the already devastating homelessness experience. To allow them to live safely and with dignity, they need active support from their Portland neighbors in the interim while they search for more secure housing. 

Though there are no official counts for houselessness fluctuation throughout the pandemic, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that the pandemic likely increased local houseless populations by as much as 150% (according to Security.org Team). 

As we all have experienced over the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our day-to-day lives. Still, for the houseless and housing insecure, that change has been dramatic and severely felt as it only has amplified the struggles faced every day. 

For that reason, right now is an especially critical moment to give what you can and help support those in our community who need it the most. 

Throughout the semester in Kara’s Literary Journalism: Contemporary Social Issues class, we have explored the ever-changing issue of housing and houselessness through a number of lenses. We’ve read and analyzed a book called “Evicted” by the journalist Matthew Desmond, which walked us through the lives and struggles of people experiencing eviction and all of its subsequent complexities. Earlier in the semester, the class interviewed Jacen Greene, who is one of the directors of Portland State University’s Homelessness and Research Action Collaborative, to understand our local epidemic of houselessness better. To synthesize our learning from the class, we each set off on our own Literary Journalism Project to explore a specific area of Portland’s houselessness crisis. 

Taking the lead on this issue, local private non-profit organizations have become one of the most reliable and welcoming ways for the houseless to gain access to basic necessities. One of these is William Temple House, which offers free food, counseling, clothing, and household items to people experiencing homelessness in Portland. For the class’s culminating project, we are teaming up with William Temple House for a donations drive to support our houseless neighbors here in Portland. 

To help out with the effort, we ask students to please go through your closets and check if there is anything that you could donate to WTH. If you do have any of these items, make sure to grab them and bring them in! Advisories all have drop boxes to collect donations. 

Below is a list of the items needed (can also be found listed on the flyers that are hanging everywhere on campus): 

2-4 person tents (gently-used welcome, too)

Sleeping bags (gently-used welcome, too)

Sleeping mats

Flashlights / headlamps

Adult underwear 

Adult jackets (gently-used welcome, too)

Gloves

Hats

Emergency mylar blankets

Hand warmers

Socks