Right 2 Survive took on an intensive body of work in 2017. R2S lived up to its commitment to the houseless community here in Oregon. We listened to the unhoused and heard what they had to say, got angry, determined and focused. Reading national reports and surveys on houselessness, our government’s budget cuts to HUD, Healthcare and Environmental Protections and compiling our own research, fostered inspiration in Right 2 Survive.
We ramped up our coalition work with Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), by strengthening the Homeless Bill Of Rights Campaign. R2S went outside of Portland providing education using the Without Housing, Powerpoint Presentations on the decline of housing dollars and the increase of laws that criminalize houselessness. We advocated for the Right To Rest Bill, HB 2215. R2S made trips to Salem,Oregon our state capital, to gain legislative support and provide educational tools based on facts and statistics to state officials that support the need for our bill. HB 2215 had Rep. Carla Piluso, former police Chief of Gresham, sign on to represent the Right To Rest, with 9 others signing as bill backers. We were not heard in the Judiciary Committee and the bill died this round. Our Oregon partners include ACLU, StreetRoots, Sisters of the Road and local College and University Students.
As tensions between housed and houseless neighbors continued to grow, the Ambassador Program built bridges and brought understanding that the power to persuade local municipalities to do more to help the houseless and come up with solutions starts with pressure from the impacted communities. We held Light The Hearth Festival in May. This attracted local artist, DJ, poets, storytellers, crafters and neighbors who attended our previous events. Outside The Frame showed powerful films as the sun set in the Pearl District. The Ambassadors expanded their work into the Southeast neighborhoods and brought in new houseless voices to share their stories.
Right 2 Survive Environmental Justice lens continued to focus in the Superfund Site and expand into environmentally impacted impoverished neighborhoods. R2S met with representatives from the EPA to discuss employment and housing construction for the unhoused and marginalized communities. We continue to look at pollutants and toxins in the air, soil and water that impact the health of our most vulnerable and our role in advocating for their futures. We took part in conferences about the natural environment areas and the impact of houselessness, trauma informed care and peaceful, respectful interaction with unhoused folks surviving in these areas.
Under The Bridge Walks fostered concerns about the negative impacts of intentional SWEEPS were having on the mental health and safety of our houseless community. As 2017 began with multiple snow storms and freezing conditions, we set out with winter gear, hot beverages and soups for the camps. R2S brought with us literature about the HBRC, updates to local ordinances, conducted surveys on criminalization and police tactics throughout the summer and into the fall. Right 2 Survive partnered with Enterprise to obtain donations for the houseless living in small encampment throughout Metro Portland. ‘In The Spirit Of Giving’ was delayed one week due to a fast moving snow storm. Never the less, we were not defeated. R2S and over 30 volunteers car pulled and caravane to the corners of our city. We made our way into North Portland, far East and Southeast areas that are food deserts and are starved for services. We are grateful for the community turnout and everyone who donated supplies and their time to give joy and support to our houseless friends, old and new.
We brought people to our general meetings that are contracted to clean up the camps and move people. Much learning happened on both sides of the meetings. They walked away with an understanding that as houseless people we have ‘NOWHERE TO GO’, and sympathized. However, they are under contract with various government agencies. We learned an average of 16 employees work 40 hour shifts making upto $56.00 per hour to SWEEP campsites. We had guest speakers talk about tiny house communities in Oregon and from out of state. R2S signed on to help students create reality interaction games focusing in houselessness. Meetings kept a pulse on injustices happening within our community and responded into action. Members traveled across the state and into other states to be represented on panels and as Keynote Speakers addressing issues surrounding houselessness.
Right 2 Survive Media Team was very busy this year by producing video coverage of our events. The Media and production team took classes to work in studio at Open Signal (PCM). As well as taking editing classes to produce our TV Show. Yes, TV Show! R2S has filmed two 30 minute episodes and are in post production. Right 2 Survive Radio on KBOO 90.7 fm has completed it’s 9th year on the airwaves giving voice to the houseless community on topic that directly impact their lives. Our radio show made half of our shows live in studio this year. This is something we are very proud of accomplishing. We acknowledge the dedication, training and tireless hard work our media team contributes to the organization.
Pitch A Tent that takes place along the Grand Floral Parade route, protesting the City of Portland buying permits for housed folks to campout on city streets for parades and events, yet criminalizes the houseless camping for survival. As the day approached we found ourselves negotiating with the property owners for the corner of 4th and Washington. This has been our staging area for 7 years. Next year we will need a new location. PAT had a large turnout from the houseless community. Organizations from all over the area supported us throughout the event. The 24 hours held educational booths and speakers, local organizations supplied volunteers, hygiene kits, water and information. Guest speakers came from as far as San Francisco WRAP office to local power houses. The DJ and local artists, singers and rappers all kept the mood light by performed through the pouring rain for more than 14 hours. We ended the night with films from local Activist Media collectives. For those that volunteered to stay and help with cleanup the morning of the parade, they were treated to an awfully dismal parade. Similarities to the way the joint county and city offices are addressing the housing and homeless crisis, by opening temporary shelters and increasing SWEEPS as the solution to end houselessness.
Right 2 Survive acted in ‘Rapid Response’ to the smoke from the Gorge fires by distributing cases of bottled water and face mask. We purchased 500 masks and handed everyone of them out with the help of our members and volunteers from Portland Assembly. This summer held record heat waves where we bought bottled water and thermos to houseless suffering from exposure and dehydration.
Right 2 Survive made numerous trips to cities in California, Colorado, Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, etc., consulting grassroots organizations on building alternative, intentional houseless communities. Discussions happened around municipalities, local government, villages, rest areas and tiny houses. We intended to establish dialogues that produced the understanding that it takes all of us to care for the health and safety of our neighbors. Though community working together we are strong. And by acknowledging the way each of our concerns and struggles intersect we then can weave the fabric of alliances to overturn the oppressions that keep us from progression.
While the year 2017, winds down, our focus remains strong. The paradigm of oppression, of incompetent officials delegating corruption and the institutional criminalization persist, we will push forward to shift the boundaries against oppression, cement our commitments to our partnerships to strengthen our impacted communities affected by governmental tactics and advocate for healthy, safe spaces where the unhoused can thrive and organize. Right 2 Survive is marching into 2018, come grow and march with us!
Thank You to all our Supporters, Allies, Members and Volunteers that without you none of this would have been made possible. The work you took on shows the resilient hearts of true warriors standing against injustice. Although the struggle was perlus at times, you hung in there so that those who couldn’t advocate for themselves would still be heard. All of us at Right 2 Survive look forward to 2018 and the power to accomplish great things and move mountains together with you working side by side.