Aug 8, 2012

Solutions to Homelessness Must be Multifaceted

CEO Mike Tarpinian shares in a Letter to the Editor

Thank you for calling attention to the persistent and complex problem of homelessness in our community and particularly for pointing out that a solution to homelessness is not a simple matter of providing more beds in shelters. As you've noted, a solution must be multifaceted, addressing the underlying causes of homelessness: mental illness, substance abuse, lack of affordable housing and joblessness.

As head of The Opportunity Alliance, a nonprofit serving the needs of the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, I can attest to the fact that mitigating the underlying causes of this problem involves community-wide resolve and a concerted effort.

In our outpatient mental health clinic here in Portland, we currently serve nearly 1,300 clients. All live with severe mental illness: anxiety disorders that include PTSD, mood disorders and co-occurring disorders of mental illness and substance dependence.

A staggering 40 percent are coping with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. A quarter of our clients are homeless and many more are at risk of homelessness; many have no, or little means to pay for their treatment.

Another, often overlooked, homeless population that we serve is youth age 13 to 18. Many times they are parents themselves, pointing to the cyclical and inter-generational nature of homelessness.

A solution to the underlying causes will take a long-term commitment and will require collective ownership of the problem by everyone in our community: federal and state agencies, nonprofit community organizations, social services agencies, healthcare providers, foundations and community members like you and me, all working in tandem with the homeless themselves.

The good news is that when we have worked together with our community partners to address the many complex facets of this problem, we have seen positive and long-term change for the homeless is possible.

Michael J. Tarpinian



Link to Letter can be found here.