I am honored to serve as a board member for Impact NW, one of Portland’s largest and far reaching anti-poverty non-profit agencies. Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to work with other board members and staff to help Impact NW set forth its strategy for delivering services to residents of our community who are at-risk of losing their home. I am more than impressed with the dedication, intelligence and enormous hearts of my colleagues engaged in this effort.
I started my career in anti-poverty work, specifically in workforce development organizations in Vermont and California. I first encountered the phenomenon of people living outside in the early 1980’s in California (people did not live outside in Vermont—too cold!). At that time, the majority of these folks were young men on the move or individuals with untreated mental health issues. I can remember very well the County of Santa Cruz’s decision in 1983 to establish its first homeless shelter. By that time, the numbers of people living outside had grown to include single women, elderly, and families that had slipped between the cracks of the social safety net. Now, as we all know, the “homeless” problem has exploded in cities throughout the United States and stands as a symbol of failure for our civic institutions.
How did we let this happen? While it seems nearly impossible for us to agree on a primary cause of homelessness, we can agree that this is a problem that must be remedied for us to be the place (neighborhood, city, region, nation) that we seek to be. All elements of our community are troubled by this issue.
Impact NW is poised to play a critical role in the re-balancing of our community resources. Our purpose is to work with individuals who have been identified as at risk of homelessness. Each day we guide folks to community resources that are designed to keep them in their homes and retain a measure of dignity.
I have always felt that the worth of society is measured by how it treats its less fortunate members. This is why I devote my time to serving on Impact NW’s board. I applaud the efforts of my colleagues on the board and am deeply grateful to the Impact NW’s employees for committing their careers to this important work.