With the skyrocketing cost of living in the Portland area and the shortage of affordable housing units, we’re seeing growing advocacy around issues of affordable housing, protection from eviction, and houselessness resources. Sadly, all too often, housing champions and worker advocates seem to pass each other by like ships in the night.
Actually, there is a profound relationship in play here. Many, and perhaps most, of our clients at NWJP are either shelterless themselves, or only one mishap at work away from finding themselves without a place to stay. When a worker is cheated out of an expected paycheck, it may well be the rent money that’s short in the check. If the worker complains, and gets fired in retaliation, the time that it takes to find a new job may exhaust any money that a family has been able to save from its very low income, and the kindness of family and friends, as well. Once more, the street looms.
And, of course, those who don’t have a place to sleep, bathe, receive mail or get a message are at a serious disadvantage in holding or finding a job.
It makes sense for social justice organizations to use their particular skills and knowledge to do the work they have the best capacity to do. But we need to begin thinking hard about how we could work together to solve these interconnected social justice issues. One example: Could a worker with a righteous wage claim that will take a few months to resolve borrow against the value of the claim to be able to pay rent in the meantime? Do we need to find the means of making these types of loans possible? Could housing providers help identify and connect families in housing jeopardy due to illegal labor practices with services both to solve work problems and keep the sheriff at bay in the meantime?
Just thinking . . .