Turn UP the Volume!

On July 1st, 285 families and individuals in the Northwest part of Oregon will be turned out of their homes.

Columbia County, where most of those evictions will take place, has an unemployment rate of 15.4%. As the economic crisis deepens, it becomes clear that what we need is more support for our neighbors that have been hardest hit, not less. We need a way to ensure a basic standard of living for everybody in our community, and that includes the poor, the disabled, and the elderly.

 But how will we afford it in this economy? The Oregon Center for Public Policy has just released a fact sheet that shows us that it is necessary to raise more revenue in order to avoid even more cuts. House Bills 2649 and 3405, coming before the legislature very soon, will allow us to avoid some cuts by raising taxes on the most wealthy and on corporations. (Call your representatives now to support these bills!)

But one cut – for HUD-subsidized housing assistance in northwest Oregon – seems to have already been implemented. Last week, ROP got a call from Mike Cook of Tillamook County. Mike works with the NeahCasa community housing trust out of Manzanita, Oregon, and called to inform us that dozens of his clients had started to come in with distressing letters from the NW Housing Authority, informing them that their housing assistance would end on July 1st.

Martha Olmstead of ROP member group Latinos Unidos para un Futuro Mejor also runs the transitional housing program at Community Action Team in Saint Helens. After working for years with families receiving support to step by slow step to get them into housing, she is ready to defend these 285 clients with all that she’s got. Every time somebody comes in with a HUD termination letter, she encourages them to write their own personal letter about why they need this housing. Then she makes dozens of photocopies and blasts them off to HUD and elected officials. She’s now starting to hear responses from everybody from local community leaders to Oregon Senator Jeff Merkeley.

Since the initial call from Mike Cook, housing advocates from across the region have come together to turn up the volume! A press release sent out by an ad-hoc group of activists and social service providers led to a visibility-raising article in the South County Spotlight, and the same group is now building pressure to get HUD to step in to fill a funding gap.

We’re living a new reality in 2009, one where our voices do count, but only when we make them heard. So let’s set a real precedent on this one, and turn the volume up even MORE!

As believers in Human Dignity, we know that a basic standard of living is required in order for our democracy to function. This is the first step if we want to turn this economy around and build strong communities from the grassroots up.

So what are you still reading for? Get to work!

We need as many calls as possible going out to HUD, and to our Oregon Senators and David Wu if you live in House District 1. Tell them that rural Oregonians deserve and need better than this. Tell them that we have GOT to find funding in the Oregon state budget to keep folks in their homes.

Roberta Ando, Field Office Director at HUD Oregon: (971) 222-2600
Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and 1st District Representative David Wu: Call the Capitol Switchboard tollfree at 1-800-828-0498 and ask for any of the above representatives.

Let us know at cara@rop.org if you’ve made the call, and let’s get this state back on track!

PS. See here for a copy of the letter that renters are getting.

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