To understand why the greater Portland region needs long-term investments to build and protect affordable places to live, we spoke to individuals and families who faced stressful times securing shelter, a fundamental need to live and thrive. They are our neighbors, single parents, veterans. Listen to their stories below.
In Oregon, 93 percent of federal rental assistance supports seniors, families with children, and people with disabilities.
Keith Scholz was born with cerebral palsy, which affected his ability to find living-wage work. He describes his job prospects as limited and said his Social Security Disability checks would not have covered rent in an apartment building in the private market. After his wife died, Scholz lived with his in-laws until his son graduated from high school. A Section 8 voucher to help cover his rent has it made it possible to live on his own.
Waitlists to get a regulated apartment or a voucher are years long. Most people in dire need could expect to wait anywhere from one to 14 years for an apartment.
Dawn Swan started drinking not long after she was raped at the age of 12. She eventually turned to drugs and developed an addiction that was "completely out of control." She nearly lost custody of her daughter. But she worked hard to overcome her addiction and find a stable home, requirements by the department of children and family services overseeing her case. "We have more stability, you know, for my daughter to be able to thrive," she said.
About half of the region’s renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, which squeezes their budgets for food and other basic essentials.
Patti Jay never imagined she would get a no-cause eviction after asking her landlord to treat the mold in her bathroom. But she did. Jay felt lucky to have found an apartment in the same neighborhood as her son's high school in Milwaukie. They were worried switching schools would disrupt his learning and connections with teachers and friends.
Decades of research have established strong connections between having an affordable place to live and a person’s physical health, mental well-being, and access to jobs and schools.
A sanctuary: Listen
Cheranda Curtis has been sober for nearly five years. She attributes her sobriety and her stable job to having a safe and affordable apartment, where she can unwind and take care of herself. She's saving to buy a home – something she never imagined. "Having that affordable housing piece made all of that possible," Curtis said.
The need for affordable and permanent housing for seniors will continue to grow. By 2035, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.
Making ends meet: Listen
Carol Castle looked for an apartment community for low-income seniors in Portland to be closer to her son and his family. But she struggled to find one that was within her budget. She found an apartment barely within her budget. "I will have to work as long as I can in order to make ends meet," Castle said.
One unexpected event, such as a sick child, a car repair, or a rent increase, can be the difference between being home - or being homeless. More than 40,000 households in our region are one crisis away from an eviction.
Putting down roots: Listen to a narrated story
Several years ago Richard and Linda Edwards and their two young children experienced homelessness after the house they were renting in Portland went into foreclosure. With help from the nonprofit JOIN, the Edwards family eventually found a regulated apartment that’s protected from rent increases. “The kids run around playing… free to be children,” Linda Edwards said. “I love being here. I think this is probably one of the most happiest (sic) times in my life.”
Trauma is often a predictor of unstable housing situations, which have profound impacts on mental, emotional and physical health.
“I was thankful and blessed to get this apartment," said Johnnie Shepherd, who lives in Southwest Portland. "And I do everything I can to keep this apartment by working a job, saving my money, and being responsible for myself. But I have a lot of support from people to do these things. I am given an opportunity to work a job every day. Honest work for honest pay. Man, that is great."
All music in these audio portraits by Podington Bear | soundofpicture.com.
Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Keith Scholz's last name. We regret the error.