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Jun-05-2019 13:05printcomments

March for Fair Housing Ends in Salem

Homeless rights activists are calling for a State of Emergency

homeless
Photo by Alvin Decena

(SALEM, Ore.) - It is around a 50-mile walk from Portland to Salem, but homeless rights activists made the trip in a bid to draw attention to their cause. Setting off on May 23rd, 2019, protesters finally reached Salem at the end of the month, where a demonstration was held.

House prices in Salem have been increasing and so has homelessness along with it. The government’s approach to the homeless community has been criticized as both cruel and ineffective.

Homeless rights activists are now calling for a state of emergency to be declared so that immediate measures can be taken to tackle the housing crisis. Much like the state of emergency that animal rights and environmentalist activists want for their cause, these Portland-to-Salem marchers want an immediate solution to the problems caused by homelessness.

Should the Government Announce a State of Emergency?

A state of emergency usually conjures up images of a devastating hurricane, widespread wildfires, or a tragic terrorist atrocity. However, state of emergencies for homelessness have become increasingly common.

It allows lawmakers to disregard laws that make it difficult to provide funding for housing and quickly find homes for those who need it. This may seem drastic, but it provides peace of mind to a section of society who often feel left behind.

While homelessness is generally on the decline, it is a worsening problem for some people in certain areas. Veterans have received the most support, but it has come at the cost of helping other homeless people.

Those in large urban areas are finding it the hardest to find a stable home as prices keep increasing. A break in homelessness is often temporary rather than secure and long lasting. Declaring a state of emergency is likely to change this.

The State of Homelessness in Salem

Salem has long been taking steps to end homelessness for good. In 2017, $1.4 million was directed towards the Homeless Rental Assistance Program. This was to be the largest housing scheme in Oregon. This took 71 people of the streets in its first year and showed promising signs. However, this wasn’t enough.

In 2008, Salem city council announced it would end homelessness within 10 years. By the 2018 deadline, however, the number of homeless people on the streets of Salem had increased from 1900 to 2400. The measures taken have not achieved the goals of government and more must be done.

Bringing Down the Cost of Housing

The marchers from Portland view the cost of housing as a major cause for concern. Just 188 affordable apartments were built on Salem’s Portland Road. This isn’t enough to house everyone and many homeless people wouldn’t have the funds even for affordable housing.

More cheap homes needs to be built and the government should invest more in programs to help rough sleepers into work to pay for secure housing.

Tackling the homeless crisis involves many factors, but even a 10 year plan and millions of dollars wasn’t able to reduce the scale of the problem. It is no wonder, then, that activists are marching for a state of emergency to be introduced, as doing so will save lives.

Source: Salem-News.com Special Features Dept.

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