RTC staff present testimony at Legislative Housing Emergency Forum

On January 9th, RTC’s Housing Navigator, Jeremy Nichols, presented testimony at the Legislative Housing Emergency Forum.  Hosted at Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization in Northeast Portland, the event was held in response to the rising rents and spikes in evictions that have become the new normal for so many Portlanders.

Jeremy was one of twenty or so individuals who spoke to state legislators whose districts fall in the tri-county area. This event preceded the Oregon Legislature’s short session in February, where housing advocates won a number of victories in the fight for a more affordable Oregon.

Each individual presenter offered personal stories of housing crises they or their clients, have faced and potential policy solutions to make more affordable housing readily available. Jeremy highlighted how Portlanders who are involved with the criminal justice system are impacted to an extreme degree. Below is a printed transcript of Jeremy’s testimony:

“Hello my name is Jeremy Nichols and I work at Reentry Transition Center through Mercy Corps NW. First of all I would like to thank you for taking the time to listen to the community and hear stories about our city and county’s Housing Crisis.

I work with men and women returning from prison back into the greater Portland community. Trust me, I understand this is not the easiest population to advocate on behalf of or go to bat for on the legislative level, yet many of you have and for that I am truly grateful. I think it is important to highlight their struggle in this housing crisis because these are people that deserve the right to dignity. They are mothers, fathers, employees, care-givers and most importantly to me – they are my dedicated colleagues. My day to day job is to help secure stable, long-term housing for my clients. But in a broader sense my job is to stop a cycle of jail time, release, relapse and reoffending.  I can say without any hesitation that housing is critical for the work we do to break that cycle. Without housing, you can’t complete treatment, it is hard to keep appointments with your Parole Officer, It is near impossible to hold a steady job. Housing is Key. Yet housing is my organization’s biggest unfunded need. 

Portland’s housing market is making it increasingly difficult for the thousands of people transitioning back into Multnomah County, who have repaid their debts to society, to successfully reengage with their communities in a positive and constructive manner. With sky-rocketing rents, many of my clients are doubled up or homeless, and pushed so far away from the critical social services and jobs that they need.

A great number of formerly incarcerated individuals are living on fixed SSI and Social Security incomes. Over 20,000 individuals in Multnomah County are living on these fixed incomes, and make no mistake; many of them have never had any involvement with law enforcement. As the vast amount of people that come before you today to testify shows, this is a problem that extends far beyond my focused lens. Our most vulnerable neighbors and loved ones are being left behind and forced out into the cold.

In this housing crisis, all affordable and subsidized housing that my clients could afford on their modest budgets, that would provide them with a safe, stable and supportive community, have incredibly long waitlists, we are talking years. There are simply not enough units, beds, and homes out there in this city right now.

And we cannot turn to the private market. This market is not going to help house our vulnerable populations, whether they have a criminal record or not, because the $733 that SSI provides doesn’t get you any housing available on the private market. That’s why the city of Portland, Multnomah County and the state of Oregon need to increase the building of affordable housing with government subsidies/investments to buy down these rising market rate rents

Because without any real options for housing (and by real, I mean affordable) the cycle I spoke of continues and, might I add, the cycle will ensnare more and more Oregonians, who without a safe home, become homeless, become desperate and are forced to make tough choices to survive.”

(Video of Testimony – RTC testimony starts at about 1:08)


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