Governor Tina Kotek at the Haven
Governor Tina Kotek and First Lady Aimee Wilson, MSW came to Rose Haven as the very first stop on their One Oregon Listening Tour. We invited our community partners from William Temple House, Raphael House, Blanchet House and Maybelle Center for Community for a frank conversation about the gaps we are filling in our social service infrastructure. With the exception of Raphael House, our agencies provide vital daytime services and do not receive government funding. As privately funded agencies, we were able to be nimble and responsive throughout the pandemic, not beholden to restrictions that come with public funds. We carried a heavy load, and continue to do so. As more people are displaced and shelters are at capacity, our programs are a critical safety net for unsheltered people in our communities. We are thankful for the opportunity to share our valuable insights.
Here is what we brought to the table for our sit down with our Governor:
1. We need a cohesive plan for what to do with sick, injured, or traumatized people. Our agencies are congregate settings, and we simply do not have the resources to serve those needing serious medical care. William Temple House calculated they spent 400+ staff hours working with just one person experiencing persistent mental health issues. We have also spent countless hours with this same individual at Rose Haven, and so has Blanchet House. In spite of our collective and resourceful efforts, today this person remains living on the streets; escalated, disruptive, and in need of full-time medical care that is unavailable to her. If the State invested in these folks that need the most help, it would free up our agencies’ resources to uplift the thousands of other people we are serving.
2. Coordination between government and non-government funded agencies is essential; especially for people in acute crisis. We need timely access to first responders, streamlined emergency infrastructure, and a better referral system. We have become frontline workers with no access to State resources. Our agencies doing daytime work are most connected with people in greatest need of resources. State funded sites like the new BHRC should coordinate care with us to determine how they prioritize shelter beds for people in crisis.
3. We need access to low-barrier funding asap! The current government funding options have many bureaucratic barriers and strings attached. Trust based philanthropy has been a movement in the private foundation sector that we encourage the State to adopt. SB 606 is a related piece of legislation that Rose Haven is advocating for. It is focused on streamlining and simplifying contracting, improving payment delivery, reducing burdensome reporting requirements, and raising nonprofit wages to improve employee retention in the long-term. This would position our agencies to consider seeking much needed public funding.
4. Gender, age and abilities need to be part of the conversation, otherwise we are overlooking those most in need. We are seeing an aging population of folks living with disabilities, more people marginalized by their gender, and more families fleeing domestic violence. Programs specific to their unique needs are essential.
We asked the Governor to voice the need for a cultural understanding; rather than “the homeless” as a problem to be dealt with, a recognition that these folks are Oregonians who deserve to have their needs met. We are so grateful to have been heard, and as always, moved by the power of community.
Thank you Governor Kotek for starting your tour at Rose Haven!