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White Bird Clinic Supports the Right to Rest Act

On Thursday, March 4th, White Bird Clinic committed to endorsing the Oregon Right To Rest Act (HB 2367). We know from experience that the criminalization of homelessness harms our entire community: public funds drained by punitive measures and “clean-up” initiatives only deepen poverty by creating legal barriers to exiting homelessness.

Penalizing people for living in public when no other options are available is not a deterrent, it is cruel and unusual punishment. Saddling people living in extraordinarily difficult circumstances with fines they can not pay and criminal records that create additional barriers to housing and employment has not prevented homelessness in Lane County, it has created chronic homelessness on a scale unseen in other communities across the United States.

Our municipalities have invested enormous resources in the enforcement of anti-homeless laws (including policing, court processing costs, and incarceration). These policies are often enforced in a discriminatory manner and force people living unsheltered into unsafe and unsanitary situations where the risk of being attacked is increased. Sleep is essential to everyone’s health, well-being, and ability to function. The lack of rest resulting from constant harassment exacerbates and causes physical and mental health issues.

Federal research confirms what many homeless community members already know: the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has clearly stated that successful responses to homelessness must include an end to criminalization practices, as well as the provision of housing and supportive services. It is not enough to create housing, we must also prevent harm.

This bill does NOT give people the right to leave trash about, urinate in public, aggressively panhandle, block a doorway or passageway, or engage in destructive activities. This bill simply makes it legal for people to move freely, rest, sleep, protect themselves from the elements, eat and share food, and other basic acts necessary for human survival.

The Right To Rest Act (HB 2367) is critical life-saving legislation for our houseless community. It has been called the bill that cannot be killed because of the amount of overwhelming public support it has received in all of the states it has been heard.

But despite HB 2367 receiving an overwhelming amount of public support, the March 9th committee hearing for Right to Rest was suddenly and unexpectedly canceled by the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bynum, the day before the hearing. This came as a shock to endorsers of the bill, all those who had submitted written testimony (80+ people), those who were planning to submit written testimony, and/or those who signed up to speak at the hearing.

The public was outraged! Thanks to everyone who contacted Chair Bynum asking her to reschedule the hearing for the Right to Rest Act. Due to overwhelming public pressure, HB 2367 was rescheduled for a public hearing and work session on April 13th at 1pm, and all of the written testimony that was previously removed is back online!

White Bird Clinic has joined in submitting joint testimony with Western Regional Advocacy Project, Rural Organizing Project, and others to add our voices to demand that the City offer emergency shelter, affordable housing, resources, and legal places to rest. We need to decriminalize homelessness and help support and stabilize our clients so they can access the resources they need, including first and foremost, the right to sleep. Please join us in supporting the Oregon Right To Rest Act (HB 2367) by submitting your written testimony before the hearing before legislators on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 1:00 PM PST. You can also register to testify remotely by phone at 833-588-4500.

White Bird and CAHOOTS are excited to submit the following joint testimony in support of the Right to Rest Act (HB 2367).

House Committee on Judiciary Chair Rep. Janelle Bynum
Vice-Chairs Reps Ron Noble and Karin Power
Committee Members Reps Ken Helm, Jason Kropf, Rick Lewis, Lily Morgan, Kim Wallan, Maxine Dexter and Marty Wilde
CC: Reps Wlnsvy Campos (sponsor), Khanh Pham, Dacia Grayber and Maxine Dexter (co-sponsors)

Re: Support Right To Rest Act HB 2367

Date: April 5, 2021

Dear Chair Bynum,

We are submitting this testimony on behalf of undersigned individuals and organizations, all of whom wholeheartedly support the Right to Rest Act, HB 2367. We acknowledge the abject failure of municipal laws that criminalize poverty and homelessness, and we recognize that passage of this legislation will result in more humane and effective responses to homelessness. At a time when Oregon is failing to fulfill our shared value that everyone deserves a safe, decent place to call home, we must stop criminalizing homelessness and redouble our efforts to ensure that we are addressing the root cause of homelessness and not the symptoms. People experiencing homelessness in our community are literally dying because they are prevented from protecting themselves from the elements and are continually pushed into hidden, unsafe areas.

Criminalization is violent, unjust, counterproductive, and creates insurmountable physical and mental barriers that prevent people from getting off the streets. Efforts to address poverty in Oregon using targeted policing strategies have increased dramatically in recent years, and yet the number of people living unsheltered continues to increase. Criminalization further entrenches people into poverty because, in addition to causing a lack of sleep that exacerbates existing physical and mental health conditions, it directly blocks pathways to stability. As people accrue “quality of life” violations, it becomes virtually impossible for them to access essential resources designated to help them: “Even minor crimes can lead to serious consequences, including the loss of a job or the denial of employment, housing, government benefits, and treatment and services” (ACLU Oregon, “Why the Right to Rest is the High Road for Oregon,” pg. 19).

Homeless people are overwhelmingly charged with crimes of survival, and the Right to Rest Act ensures that all Oregonians, regardless of housing status, are able to stand, rest and share food in public spaces. This bill does not give people the right to leave trash about, urinate in public, aggressively panhandle, block a doorway or passageway, or engage in destructive activities. It also does not alter local governments’ ability to enforce laws prohibiting trash, drug use, or public sex. The Right to Rest Act does not grant homeless people special rights, but rather protects their shared right to exist in public spaces without threat of discrimination or harassment.

When there is no public space in which homeless people are legally allowed to conduct activities that everyone must do, they will always be targets for law enforcement or private security forces. This discriminatory pattern – in which laws that will inevitably be broken are created and then brutally enforced – is as American as apple pie: the United States has a long, well-documented history of local governments using their authority to implement local time, place and manner restrictions to target “undesirable” populations and remove them from public spaces, be it Sundown Towns, anti-Okie laws, or Ugly Laws (which criminalized people with disabilities). In extreme cases, the underlying idea that the targets of such laws are disgusting or immoral means that people like James Plymell are allowed to be killed with little to no consequence. Initiatives that infringe on the most basic human and civil rights are, in fact, a dangerous and destructive attack on the only thing that very poor people have to call their own — their humanity.

The solution to homelessness is permanent housing. We must work together to ensure that truly affordable, accessible and adequate housing is available to all who need it. As long as policing remains the first, and in many cases the only response to homeless people who are experiencing mental health crises, using drugs, or simply existing in public spaces as James Plymell was, we will not be seeing the “end of homelessness” anytime soon.

In solidarity,
Right to Survive
Sisters of the Road
Portland-Metro People’s Coalition (PMPC)
Rural Organizing Project (ROP)
Rise and Resist Southern Oregon
Siskiyou Street News
Western Regional Advocacy Project
White Bird Clinic

hoots-logo

Statement from the HOOTS Team

Written in collaboration by HOOTS team members with support of the White Bird Community Collective

The HOOTS (Helping Out Our Teens in Schools) program stands in solidarity with our youth, educators, and community members who are calling for our schools to prioritize the mental health needs and well-being of all students by de-funding the school resource officer (SRO) position and reallocating those funds towards support services for students. We stand with our community as it resoundingly demands that public schools be safe for all students and that school districts demonstrate a commitment to providing ample non-punitive support.

As a team of mental health and medical professionals, we see students on a daily basis who are survivors of a maladapted safety net that only exacerbates issues of poverty and oppression. Hoots believes in utilizing mediation, restorative justice and self-reflection–tools that we know to be more effective in the development of our students than criminalization and punishment. Our team encourages school administrators to work proactively to identify alternative ways in which student needs and challenges can be addressed, and we happily offer our assistance in whatever way we can. We believe that working to support students, rather than punishing them, is ultimately the path that will lead to safer schools.

We hear students of color speaking out about law enforcement presence in their schools, and the negative impact this has on their safety and ability to thrive. We need to listen and believe these voices, and allow them to lead the way toward racial justice in our school system. Despite the ubiquitous presence of SROs nationwide, very little evidence exists that supports their effectiveness at deterring acts of violence. On the contrary, in many instances, SROs have been found to perpetuate and escalate violence in schools.

Hoots pledges its support to the movement to reallocate all funding from the SRO program. We believe that students’ actions are a reflection of the care afforded to them by the community, and as such, well-compensated teachers, counselors, and support staff are what will truly make a difference in keeping students safe and healthy. We ask that all schools demonstrate their dedication to listening to the voices of students of color and their families, and the empirical evidence available showing the harm SROs can cause. We are thankful to be a part of a community that can have these challenging discussions.

White Bird’s Public Comment on the ‘Prohibited Camping Re-enforcement Rollout’

Update: On Tuesday, June 16th the Eugene Human Rights Commission unanimously voted to endorse this policy recommendation and refer it on to City Council for deliberation.

The following testimony in reference to the enforcement of the prohibited camping ordinance was submitted to the Eugene Police Commission, a twelve-member citizen body that acts in an advisory capacity to the city council, the chief of police and the city manager on police policy and resource issues. Join the Thursday, June 11 meeting via Webinar: https://eugene-or-gov.zoom.us/j/98439278535

Dear Police Commissioners,

In reference to your agenda item on the Prohibited Camping Re-enforcement Rollout, White Bird Clinic asks that EPD continue to follow CDC guidelines and not disperse encampments unless there is illegal conduct outside of camping.

Recommended Policy Focus – Harm Reduction

  1. We support EPD strategies that minimize impacts to unhoused individuals:
    1. Response to unsanctioned camping complaints should provide outreach materials including camping guidelines, social services information and referral, COVID-19 information, and COVID-19 transmission prevention strategies including waste disposal.
    2. Implementing a code of conduct for campers.
    3. Providing educational materials on conflict mediation between individuals who shelter outside and other community members.
    4. Supporting community health and safety measures.
  1. We request the City of Eugene clarify locations where sheltering in place, including sheltering in a vehicle, is permitted and where it is prohibited.
  2. Establish recovery sites for sanctioned and supported camping that allow pets, partners and possessions, with 24-hour security, bathrooms, and storage.
  3. Establish an alternative call and dispatch system to using law enforcement when a complaint only involves prohibited camping and there is no threat to public safety or crisis response necessary.

White Bird Clinic believes that ending unsheltered homelessness requires a coordinated approach that addresses social, emotional, and physical well-being. We support policy initiatives that center people with lived experience and support solution-oriented advocacy efforts that adequately fund programs effective in ending homelessness.

Supporting Materials

  • Letter from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (“Law Center”) to the Mayor, City Council, and City Manager, regarding the closure of temporary shelter facilities for people experiencing homelessness in Eugene, OR during the COVID-19 crisis, and the enforcement of anti-camping ordinances against people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis DOWNLOAD PDF
  • Interim Guidance on Unsheltered Homelessness and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for Homeless Service Providers and Local Officials, CDC Web Site

 

Racism is a Public Health Crisis

A Statement from CAHOOTS

Written by Ebony Morgan
CAHOOTS Crisis Intervention
Communications Team

Cahoots has been operating as a mobile crisis intervention program in Eugene since 1989. We respond in teams of two with a medic and trained crisis worker, handling 20% of the 911 calls in our area last year. This is a responsibility we take extremely seriously, and we feel privileged to do this work.

Across the nation, communities are demanding that elected leaders defund police, reallocate resources, and re-evaluate current approaches to public safety. As the first program of our kind, we are in a unique position to share our experience and knowledge with other cities that are now considering alternatives to policing. We are humbled by this and have become acutely aware of our privileged position within a system designed to oppress.

At our roots, Cahoots is innovative, forward-thinking, and dedicated to serving marginalized populations. Despite this, we are not immune to the effects of systemic racism and if we are going to lead by example, we must first do the work internally. We take responsibility for our past silence, and we commit to being advocates for change. We are actively seeking out, evaluating, and eradicating the ways that white supremacy exists within our structure and we encourage other organizations to do the same.

Cahoots proudly stands with Black Lives Matter. We believe it is not enough simply to disapprove of racism. Rather, we assert that individuals, organizations, communities, and the nation as a whole have a responsibility to be anti-racist. We will speak up when we see power inequities. We will amplify oppressed voices. We will continue to educate ourselves. We will not shy away from any aforementioned commitments due to potential risks. We will reflect regularly and welcome feedback as we learn to use our privilege constructively.

We are appalled by the lynching of George Floyd, aware that he was not the first nor the last to die a preventable death due to the color of his skin. Police brutality is not an isolated issue. It is a symptom of the broader toxic culture of white supremacy that was woven into the fiber of this nation as we know it during its inception.

Racism is a public health crisis. For the sake of health equity, we have a responsibility to dismantle systems of oppression. This will take a lot of effort and we will have to be intentional about addressing racism’s effects on the social determinants of health. We must begin this work immediately.

White Bird Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

White Bird Clinic was founded 50 years ago as an alternative for those who were alienated and disenfranchised by the dominant culture. We are outraged that half a century later there is still a lack of equality, justice, and freedom across our country. We recognize our privilege and our responsibility to employ that privilege to dismantle the racist systems, policies, and attitudes that contributed to the brutal and tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others before them.

As a collective, we uphold the principle that the revolution against institutional racism and genocidal violence is not contingent on what is convenient for the white community. We will begin the fight by looking within to identify all policies and practices that are rooted in racism and excise them. We will insist that our work lives up to our values and be grounded in racial equity. We will battle the systematic oppression that subjugates people of color. White Bird Clinic stands with Black Lives Matter. We see you. We reject the institutions that oppress you. We honor your voices. We act with you.

CAHOOTS Model Featured in Street Roots Newspaper article “Rethinking our first response”

Kaia Sands, Executive Director of Street Roots, a Portland newspaper that creates income opportunities for people experiencing homelessness and poverty through media that is a catalyst for individual and social change, visited White Bird Clinic’s mobile crisis support program, CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) this month.

In 2019, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Police Chief Danielle Outlaw and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s staff have all come to Eugene to learn about the CAHOOTS model response to non-criminal matters resulting from homelessness. Kaia joined our crisis worker and medic team for a shift and shared her story, available in PDF for download here with permission.

Street Roots visit to CAHOOTS helped to inform their plan for a Portland Street Response team. This would be a non-law enforcement system of six well-marked mobile response vans teamed with a specially-trained firefighter-EMT and peer support specialist dispatched through both 911 and nonemergency channels. Street Roots explores how these issues are being responded to in Portland and Eugene and how we can build a better system. Read more (PDF)…

White Bird Clinic Stands in Solidarity with the Transgender Community 

White Bird Clinic stands in solidarity with our transgender/gender diverse clients, co-workers, and community members in affirming the validity of their existence and right to personally define and express their identities.

We resist any statement claiming that gender is a biological or immutable condition determined by genitalia. Both categories of sex and gender are infinitely diverse and complex in their expressions and cannot be limited to a binary system. To dictate how an individual personally identifies stands in direct conflict with our humanistic values of self-determination, freedom of expression, and valuing of diversity.

To our transgender/gender diverse clients, co-workers, and community members:

We see you in your diversity and complexity, we affirm your existence and your right to safety. We see the pain and harm created by statements that attempt to erase your existence. We will not stand idly by while those in power fan the flames of injustice, violence, and bigotry.

We are committed to providing accessible, safe, and affirming services to transgender and gender nonconforming people free from discrimination and in congruence with the recommendations of several highly regarded professional organizations:

  • American Medical Association
  • American Nurses Association
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Psychological Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • World Professional Association for Transgender Health
  • OHSU Transgender Health Program

…..And many others, who recognize gender is expansive beyond a binary and is not determined by one’s genitalia and sex assigned at birth.

White Bird Clinic will stand true to our mission statement in continuing to enable all people to gain control of their social, emotional, and physical well-being. We recognize the innumerable harms that systemic injustice and marginalization have on an individual’s mental health, and we are committed to seeking progressive change—on an individual, community, and national level—to make health and well-being accessible to the most vulnerable populations.

To be truly committed to our mission, we recognize the need to speak out when those on a national level attempt to undermine the well-being, personal safety, and mental health of transgender and gender non-conforming people. We are proud of our clients, co-workers, and community members who are bravely authentic in their gender identities. In doing so, you are helping us all break free from restrictive gender norms and social categories that harm every one of us, in varying ways.

In gratitude, we will continue to speak up, serve our community, and fight for personal freedom. Until the Revolution!

Authored by the White Bird Clinic Queer Affinity Group

Serenity Lane Recognizes Kimber Hawes as “Unsung Hero” at Community Service Awards

Serenity Lane honored White Bird’s Kimber Hawes in an award ceremony in honor of front line staff in our local recovery community as an Unsung Hero for the impactful work she does as a CAHOOTS worker.

Champions in the field of drug and alcohol treatment were recognized in the following categories:

  • Addiction Professional Award
  • Community Leadership Award
  • Dwight Lee Spiritual Advisor Award
  • Emergency Services Professional Award
  • Health Care Professional Award
  • Mental Health Professional Award
  • The Unsung Hero Award