By Susan Lindsay

During the recent severe cold snap where nearly a foot of snow and ice covered the entire metro region, four homeless persons died of hyperthermia and one newborn who had been born outdoors to a homeless mother was found dead at a bus stop.

On any given night hundreds of individuals call the sidewalks, parks, underpasses, and door entry ways home, and a large percentage of these are live in the inner east side. In addition, recreational vehicles, some unlicensed, often disabled and potentially uninsured are parked in semi-permanent means in the public right of way and used as storage units or living quarters.

This has been one of the wettest, coldest and most severe winters on record. The City of Portland spent scores of millions of dollars since the declaration of the housing emergency in late 2015. So why are so many hundreds of persons still on the streets? Many want to know: Where did the money go? What can be done? What specific plans are in the works to protect those most vulnerable? What alternative housing options can be considered? How can the homeless be housed, ‘now’?

To address these concerns, the Buckman Community Association is hosting a forum to look at: “Housing Now: from the Streets to Structures and Shelters.” The goal of this forum is to hear from local experts the specifics of the homeless situation in our midst, the past performance of previous fiscally-supported projects, and to look ahead to new options and plans in the works to change from this current untenable situation.

New elected County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, Joint Office on Homelessness Director, Marc Jolin, City Commissioner and former housing commissioner for years, Dan Saltzman, will all attend to answer community questions, share ideas and to participate with the community in a positive, collaborative discussion on options moving forward. Mayor Ted Wheeler, now the city’s housing lead, has been invited too.

Think the city should be building tiny houses, new pods, providing large safe tented areas or creating additional permanent shelters? Have some smart notions on how to fund more housing? Know locations throughout the city or region for new construction or safe villages? Bring your ideas! We want to hear from you. We all know this: no one should have to live (and die from exposure) on a sidewalk ever again in Portland simply because the city cannot manifest appropriate housing options for those most in need.

This important forum, originally scheduled in early December, then reset for early January, has ironically been canceled three times due to severe weather. It will now be held, Thursday, February 9, at 7 pm in the Multnomah County Board Room, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd. (Board meets previously at 6:20 pm).

All are welcome! There will be refreshments available. Feel free to bring snacks and cookies, too. After meeting socializing at the nearby Hawthorne Lucky Lab.

The land use meeting of the BCA is Thursday, Feb. 16, 7-8:30 pm same location.

To contact the BCA Board: buckmanboard@googlegroups.com or see buckmanpdx.org.