is Portland the (or “a”) national leader in embracing various models of unhoused villages?

Tim McCormick

I received this question from a journalist recently:

is Portland the (or “a”) national leader in embracing various models of unhoused villages?

Here's my reply to them and the editor: ------------

I'd say, while Portland has taken some good steps, such as in theory enabling many new "Outdoor Shelters" with the 2021 Shelter to Housing Continuum zoning reforms, I think it has in many ways lost its leadership, even turned reactionary in regard to embracing various models of unhoused villages.

In contrast to the pioneering visions and practices of, for example, early Dignity Village and Right 2 Dream Too, or permanent Community First! in Austin or SquareOne Villages developments in Eugene, or Pu'uhonua o Wai'anae village in Hawaii -- Portland [& Oregon] leaders in recent years have in my opinion shown mostly narrow, fearful, or oppositional attitudes towards more innovative, adaptive, or radical housing & shelter approaches generally. For example, concepts of 'village' and "tiny house" have here been strongly conflated with only temporary shelter, in ignorance of or opposition to their wider usages elsewhere.

[+ further notes on discussing in community forums, vs traditional media approaches]:

By the way, I suggest posting this question to community forums such as PDX Shelter Forum or the Alternative Shelter Network group (which I also admin btw). From my perspective, it seems advantageous to engage community openly when developing a story, opening up opportunities for more and wider and possibly unexpected perspectives, civic participation, and letting people publicly discuss issues, self-represent, and be part of issue framing and agenda-setting. For sources, particularly less powerful or positioned ones, responding only privately to media means giving up time and knowledge with generally no assurance of any benefit in return, and with real risks of being misrepresented, and little recourse if it happens.

Consider it a challenge, to include views that may differ significantly from yours and other sources'. 

My previous direct experiences with Willamette Week were of being interviewed by Sophie Peel and by Latisha Jensen, also about housing & homelessness issues, and each time feeling that they came in with strong & upfront-expressed opinions and positions on the subject, some they were aware of and others they weren't. I felt like they weren't particularly receptive to my differing viewpoints, and in both cases their subsequent story didn't quote me or in any way reflect perspectives I'd offered. 

This points to other reasons why I think it's often better, for sources and for the community, for story-related inquiries like yours to go to open, community forums, like PDX Shelter Forum and Alternative Shelter Network in this case. Then, various people can offer their own responses, in their own words, and others can see varied views, and compare what they see there to what they see in the published 'final' story. Civic agency is thereby more distributed, rather than concentrated as in broadcast-type media. By contrast, in the usual approach of writers and sources communicating only privately, leading to a single & 'final' story, it's relatively invisible to the public how much the writer may have chosen sources & responses selectively to align with their own views, or of their editors' or publication's or allies. 

From the standpoint of holding power to account, and seeing media itself as power, I think we should want media to generally operate more transparently, and with open acknowledgment of its own positions. But that's just my view. 

Tim McCormick
Housing Alternatives Network
+1 503.334.1894. 

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