Group, which meets once a month, gives homeless a voice
By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: March 30, 2016, 6:05 AM
There are neighborhood associations for most every area in Clark County, but what about people without an address?
The new Unhoused Residents Association looks to empower homeless people in Clark County by making them an officially recognized group that can advocate on its own behalf. In February, the association began holding monthly town hall meetings at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in west Vancouver.
Outsiders Inn, a homeless advocacy group, formed the association; meetings are facilitated by founder Adam Kravitz. He said he is a more effective advocate when he hears the most relevant, current concerns from people who are living on the streets.
“That’s why we do this. Everybody gets a voice, and everybody gets to be heard,” he said. “The magic of these meetings is bringing people together and the collaboration that’s going to happen.”
Kravitz is a new board member at Share, which operates shelters in Clark County, so he is able to offer institutional knowledge and relay what’s happening at the nonprofit organization to the Unhoused Residents Association members. Ren Autrey, also of Outsiders Inn, keeps minutes during the meetings.
Fliers for the association read: “No decisions about us, without us!”
Judi Bailey, neighborhoods program manager at the city of Vancouver, said neighborhood associations are geographically defined and are officially recognized by city ordinance. That means that those without an address cannot form a neighborhood association. The Unhoused Residents Association would be considered a sort of stakeholder group, she said, similar to Bike Clark County or the Clark County Rental Association.
“It’s more a group that’s connected by interest than geographical location,” Bailey said.
K.C. Vee, who lives out of his van with his wife, attended the group’s second meeting on March 10. The 40-year-old said he isn’t sure if politicians will listen to him about his concerns but they would be more apt to listen to a reputable organization, whether it’s Outsiders Inn or the Unhoused Residents Association. He is concerned about the negative perception of the homeless, he added.
“This isn’t just a bunch of people sitting around whining about being homeless,” Vee said. “We want to change our circumstance.”
Danny Hessick said he heard about the meetings at Friends of the Carpenter and a volunteer with the nonprofit group drove him to the meeting at St. Luke’s. The 47-year-old said he likes that the gatherings give him a chance to let other people know what he is feeling.
Also in attendance were representatives from agencies that assist the homeless, including 211Info, the Arnada Abbey, Hands of Favor and His Presents.
Many topics were covered at the two-hour meeting on March 10.
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