Thursday, October 29, 2009

"A Little Levity"

It’s difficult facing the truth about oneself. I ran into this problem last year, but I bravely took it on...


I'm A Bigot

I just realized that I’m a bigot. All my life I’ve had a hatred of the German language. Not all German people, but their language (and their TV soldiers). It has to go back to when I was a little boy. We used to sit in front of the television watching shows like “Gallant Men”, “Combat”, and “Hogan’s Heroes”, where the good guys were American soldiers in World War 2.

Inevitably there would be German Officers who would come on the screen speaking either in bad English or German. They would bark out orders to their troops or sometimes to the Americans themselves. This was upsetting to me. How dare they shout at an American soldier? Someone working to save Democracy?

Was I influenced by post war propaganda? You bet I was. Did I buy into the idea that German TV soldiers were evil? Uh huh. Did I let those deep seeded feelings turn me into a bigot? Apparently so.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Heeeere's Joseph!

This is a post I put up about my nephew in August 2008. He has autism, and we have to fight tooth and nail on his behalf, so he can have a normal life. His picture's actually on this post on the blog. I don't know how to get it to here...


Through the Grapevine

Goodwill puts out “a monthly publication for employees of Goodwill industries of Columbia Willamette” titled the Goodwill Grapevine. Back in June my nephew’s case manager there asked me if it was ok to do an article about him. I was a little bit hesitant because I didn’t want him portrayed in any kind of negative light. She assured me that wouldn’t be the case, and said she’d do a story for the August edition.

He came over for Sunday dinner today and brought a copy of the newsletter with him. There’s a picture of him on the cover which is very cool. However; the back page is where his “story” is told, and I think it sucks. I don’t know who wrote this piece of trash, but they ought to be hung by the toes.

It starts out by saying; “The myriad of workplace sounds confuse him”. They don’t know that. He may have been confused because the situation was new. It goes on to say “The fast and efficient movements of employees make him anxious”. How can they write that? He certainly has never told anyone that. As I read I’m picking up on a vibe that they’re trying to make his disability look much worse than it is. Next they go on to say he “suffers from autism, a severe brain disorder”. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing he suffers from are the fools who wrote this drivel. “Some autistic individuals even feel terrible pain when they hear certain sounds. And sometimes the disease forces individuals to withdraw into their own world to avoid dealing with the sounds of the real world”. That may be true for some people with autism, but it’s not Joseph’s m.o. by a long shot. And...somebody needs to tell the writer that autism is NOT A DISEASE.

The next paragraph starts out by saying “Yet, somehow Joseph found the courage to move beyond his disorder”. Is this hyped-up fluff, or what? Courage? He’s as autistic now as he was when he started at Goodwill. He likes being autistic. I like his autism. The writer of this article ought to go back to school to gain an understanding of what disability is and isn’t. That’s the biggest reason he's bustin’ out of Goodwill.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What Do You think?

It may sound cold to some, but here’s what I believe.


Commercializing Martin Luther King's Birthday

At Thanksgiving we gather the homeless and hungry for turkey dinners. We make sure they have a hot nutritious meal...on that one day of the year. I tend to believe it’s more for the community at large than those being fed. It relieves guilt we may have for not taking care of these folks year round.

I see the same sort of dynamic growing more each year around Martin Luther King’s birthday. Next Monday there will be breakfasts honoring civil rights champions all over the country. There will be celebrations and TV broadcasts. There will be quotes and speeches about how great Dr. King was. There will be volunteer opportunities to paint, restore, clean up, and care...on that one day of the year.

I’m not buying any of it. I’m quite certain that Dr. King would not buy it either. He was much more of an in-the-trenches warrior than a celebrity. He was a year round activist who was more concerned with results than pomp and circumstance.

So I choose to have a day of fasting and praying on Monday. Something very low key. I’ll set my sights on what I can do when Tuesday rolls around.

They Call Me Egg Face

The other day I wrote about a legislative "coffee" happening in my part of town in a post titled "We Interupt This Project". I missread the dates, THINKING it had already happened earlier that day! Later I wrote an email to my State Senator exxpressing my disappointment that it had come and gone without my knowing about it.

Late yesterday he got back to me, telling me I was a month early on my critique of the outreach done. Oops! I WAS WRONG. Guess it's important to have the facts nailed down before complaining. My bad!

Friday, October 23, 2009

On New Orleans

Honestly, I was unaware of the emotional impact this project would have on me when I began. Each time I browse through the posts, I find something that brings me to tears. A little over 2 years ago I wrote about New Orleans, and what has NOT happened since Hurricane Katrina swept through in 2005. It still breaks my heart...

Six Feet of Water in the City of Evangeline
I’ve been bouncing back and forth between sadness and anger this morning; the 2 year anniversary of Katrina devouring the Gulf Coast. New Orleans was my favorite city in the world. I’m sad and angry because that great city and her people (mostly low income black folks) continue to go largely unattended to by the US Government in the 2 years since. Was Kanye West inaccurate when he proclaimed; “President Bush doesn’t care about black people”? I’d have to say he hit the nail on the head when looking at what the Bush administration has done to put that city back together again.

Did you ever have a chance to visit New Orleans prior to its’ destruction? I went there twice when I was in my roaring twenties. Mardi gras remains as the greatest memory I have of partying in my entire life. But it isn’t just the revelry that has stayed with me since my visits way back when, it’s the all that the Big Easy was.

Po Boy sandwiches, Dixie Land Jazz, Mark Twain, the Muddy Mississip, the street cars, the Doobie Brothers, Buster Holmes’ (red beans and rice), Louis Armstrong, voodoo, coffee with chicory, the Times Picayune, the old Southern homes with their tall ceilings, the Neville Brothers, grits, the list goes on and on. Who’d have thought it could all be wiped out by a storm?

When Randy Newman penned the lyrics to “Louisiana 1927” sometime around 1990, I don’t think he was envisioning what would happen some 15 years down the road. What really gets me is that as far back as 1926 (the Mississippi overflowed its’ banks the year before the Big Flood) it was known that the city would eventually flood beyond repair... it was just a question of when. I’ve pasted those lyrics below, in honor of this sad date in US history.

“What has happened down here is the wind has changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame what the river has
To this poor crackers land."

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"What It All Comes Down To..."

On May Day 2007 the disability community declared it to also be known as “Disablism Day”. The term “disablism” refers to the differences in the lives of folks with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. It’s also a call to the non-disabled community to find it within themselves to stop treating people with disabilities “differently”. I remember feeling truly inspired as I wrote this next post.

TUESDAY, MAY 01, 2007

Disablism Day Reflections

Due to some pressing matters I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’ve been holding out and holding on... to hope. Hope that people will awaken to the fact that civil and human rights are continually violated in the US of A daily in the personhood of people with disabilities. Preaching to the choir? I hope not.

I was talking to a guy last week about why I am the way I am. There’s a part of me that places principles before relationships. I figure that I have a limited time here on Earth, and I want to affect as much positive change as I can before my life is over. It’s almost to a point of obsession. If that means people not liking me because I don’t whisper or play nice, so be it.

1.) It sucks that a smaller group of people control the government, the resources, the media, and the decisions in the name of the larger group. Why aren’t more people up in arms??

2.) YOU CAN defend a woman’s right to choose and abhor the euthanasia of innocent people.

3.) YOU CAN be a progressive person and believe that life is sacred and should be treated as such.


5.) Incremental change is for the fearful. Immediate change is for the brave.

6.) Bargaining and rationalizing is a foreign concept to TRUTH.

7.) I’d rather have someone speak to me incorrectly and treat me right, than to have someone speak to me correctly and screw me. (That seems to be the latest trend)

8.) The truth will make you sick BEFORE it sets you free.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Novel Approach To Writing

Since I’ve written 445 posts on my blog, AND I’m kinda lazy by nature, I’ve decided to do a “greatest hits” thing for the rest of October. My plan is to take older posts from the blog and push them up to “current” status. Although this feels peculiarly like watching old episodes of Lawrence Welk, where they tell you what year it’s from, It’s a nice way to celebrate some of what I consider my best posts. Here’s a post from when my blog was pretty new...


What's Up With Disability Awareness?

What’s up with disability “awareness” demonstrations anyway? I’m talking about those exercises designed for school kids to “experience” what it’s like to live with a disability. For example, kids are encouraged to put two-sided tape between their fingers to see how their fingers stick together and how hard it is to pick up objects or to write. Or they are made to put a rubber ball between their knees then try to walk or run to “experience” a physical disability. Then they are asked to read a page of words that are printed backwards or with the letters jumbled around to “simulate” dyslexia. Probably the most insulting, they take turns putting on funny-looking masks and “experience” what it’s like to be laughed at. And my all-time favorite, they stuff marshmallows into their mouths and try to say a sentence to “simulate” a speech impairment.

All of this is supposed to create better understanding and empathy for their schoolmates who have disabilities. These exercises are so short-sighted and insulting that I believe they do more harm than good. The obvious is that they are designed to highlight differences, not similarities. In highlighting these differences, they sum up the experience of disability as performance deficits in areas where people struggle, but give no opportunity to see people with disabilities as individuals who possess a broad range of unique talents and abilities beyond these areas. Besides, what about the myriad of assistive technologies, equipment and adaptations to the environment that people use to accomplish these tasks at performance levels at or above what people without disabilities can do? These demonstrations also give kids the impression that all people with disabilities can be lumped into one group that experiences these things in the same way. They focus on the disability as the problem, but do nothing to show the unnecessary environmental barriers and prejudice in society that people with disabilities encounter daily. They actually involve “real” people with disabilities who take others through these degrading and misleading exercises. And they are focused on the wrong audience.

What’s needed is a demonstration for ADULTS without disabilities where they are forced to sit through a meeting with a case manager they’ve never met before asking for details about the likely peculiar “behaviors” they exhibit. They would experience the indignity of this 3-hour meeting during which every idea they present for assistive devices, adaptations or personal support services is met with a “No, it's not on our funded priority list.” They would be joined by a “vocational specialist” who would respond to every idea they present for appropriate workplace supports with “I don’t think ‘CARF’ will allow that goal” or “none of the other 'participants' are doing that, so we don’t want the others to think we’re giving any ‘special’ favors.” They would be told that a performance goal that targets 90 or 100% is not allowed, since it’s outside the standard “guidelines” that expect that the majority of people with disabilities won’t perform at that level. After the meeting they would be asked to sit and wait for their ride to pick them up. It will be at least a 30-minute wait, and it will arrive 10 minutes late. They would board the van and experience being driven around for 2 hours on a circuitous route that picks up several other people before arriving at their destination, which would normally be a 15 minute drive. Their destination? A dinner with their family, which was planned for 5 PM, but of course they don’t arrive until well after 6.

Now that’s disability “awareness.”

Friday, October 16, 2009

How To Make People Lie

Want to have some fun during this Halloween season? I’ve come up with the perfect trick to pull on “important” people, that will surely make you smile. It goes like this.

You simply approach any government type(s), rich people, or famous person you know, and ask them if they’ve been vaccinated against the H1N1 virus. Because they’re most likely NOT on the list of high priority folks for the vaccine they will HAVE TO lie when they answer “no”.

Don’t ask about any other person than themselves. If you do that they’ll say that HIPPA rules prevent them from telling you, but they’ll be stuck as far as themselves.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Eugenics Afoot?

Yesterday I received a letter from the Oregon Department of Human Services around being vaccinated for the H1N1 virus. Because I’m a “Health Care Worker”, they feel it’s important that I get this vaccination, so I won’t pass the virus on to those I work with. They also expressed concern that if I were to get sick, my folks wouldn’t get the help they need. In other words... I’m “high priority”.

Shortly after reading the letter, I called my Dr. to set up a time to get vaccinated. As usual, I got her voicemail instead of a human. I left a clear message about the letter, and the need to get the vaccination ASAP. A few hours later I got a call from her assistant. She told me that they don’t have the adult vaccine yet, and that at this time they are only vaccinating people who are between 5 and 24 years old. She also told me to check back on Monday.

This whole situation is whacked! The letter also says that people over 65 are no longer a high priority group. The letter states; “It appears that many over the age of 65 have some immunity to this virus and are not in the first priority group”. “Some immunity”? What the hell is that?? I smell Eugenics. Senior citizens and people with disabilities seem to be taking a back seat to those who are already healthy for the most part. I also hear they want to do away with “aggressive treatment” for seniors who get sick, and stick them in Hospice to die. Hmmm... what’s next??

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Homelessness In Portland

In Portland, as in other US cities, homelessness is a serious problem. Here, we have a 10 year plan to eradicate homelessness. Half way through the 10 years we have some "results" on the effort. Here's an update...

Half Way Through Portland's 10 Year Plan To End Homelessness

Portland, OR October 12, 2009 9:59 a.m.

Oregon is struggling through a deep recession, which is blamed for forcing hundreds, perhaps thousands more people into homelessness.

In Portland, housing services are undergoing a major restructuring.

In OPB’s second story in our series, “No Place to Call Home,” we look at the chronically homeless.

As Rob Manning reports, Portland’s nationally-recognized Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness is expected to keep the same focus for the next five years, that it had over the first five years.

The joint Portland-Multnomah County Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness first saw the light of day in December 2004.

City commissioner Erik Sten rolled it out.

Erik Sten: “I think most people laugh when the government comes out with a plan that says ten years from now, we hope to end homelessness – but we’re doing it anyway because we believe it could happen. It could happen if we all do the work we want to do.”

The event drew the Bush Administration’s top homelessness official, Philip Mangano.
Phillip Mangano: “We already knew that chronic homeless people – the ten to twenty percent of the homeless population, consumed more than half of all the resources we spend on homelessness. But recent studies show that this is a disproportionately expensive population in mainstream healthcare.”

In the first two years of the plan, OPB tracked a handful of chronically homeless people who received shelter and services through the Ten Year Plan.

People can be stuck on the streets for a variety of reasons, often related to mental illness or drug problems.

Steve Powell was homeless because of a physical disability. Powell’s rheumatoid arthritis means he can’t use his hands to work.

He spent 15 years living outdoors. Much of that time, he was camping on a hill in Portland’s Forest Park. On a drizzly morning four years ago, Powell had just moved into an apartment, and was settling into his new life.

Steve Powell: “It’s nice to look out there and know I don’t have to get in it. Like up there in the hills in my tent, sometimes I’d be cuddled up in some blankets, just to stay warm and now, I can sit back and look at it, instead of cuddled up under something.”

Four years later, Powell still enjoys living indoors.

Steve Powell: “Yes, I’m still here, and unless something happens, I’ll stay here, you know.”

The 58 year-old Powell has two homeless friends, he refers to just as Mike and Mark, who come by occasionally. Powell says Mike wants to move inside.

Steve Powell: “As far as Mark, uh, I have no idea what he has in his head. I mean if I was him, I’d be getting off that hill because he’s getting visited by the rangers and the police, and he’s going to wind up in jail.”

Powell says he might’ve wound up dead, if he’d stayed outside. He’s heard that falling trees struck his favorite camping spot in a recent storm.

The Ten Year Plan has housed more than 2000 chronically homeless people like Steve Powell in the last four and a half years.

Powell might still be homeless if not for one of the priorities of the Ten Year Plan: permanent, subsidized shelter.

But building those places is expensive and complicated. To understand just how hard it is, let’s go back to where the Ten Year Plan was announced: the musty lobby of an old Ramada Inn in Portland’s Rose Quarter.

Again, former federal housing czar, Phil Mangano.

Phil Mangano: “And here – right here, in the building, the promise of the future isn’t it? Permanent housing for the homeless at Rose Quarter Housing.”

Ed Blackburn with the housing and treatment non-profit, Central City Concern, was optimistic in 2004, that the Ramada would soon become Rose Quarter Housing.
Ed Blackburn: “So we hope to start that renovation and have it ready, I think some time in late summer for occupancy. It may be a little sooner than that, or a little later than that.”

Fast-forward almost five years, and Rose Quarter Housing is still a construction zone, with hard hats required. Ed Blackburn says there are two big reasons the project has taken so much longer than expected.

One is best demonstrated on the top floor. It’s been completely gutted.
Ed Blackburn: “The leaks were coming through the roof, down into the walls, and because they had so many layers of vinyl wall paper on it, it wasn’t leaking out, you didn’t see it, until you started tearing the walls apart. And once you found that, we had to replace the walls, because they’d had too much water in them for too long.”

Those construction problems became even costlier, when problem number two surfaced last year. The financial meltdown that forced hundreds of Oregonians into homelessness, also tightened up the credit needed to finish housing projects.
Now, some of the rooms on a lower floor are finished. Ed Blackburn can stand on the new tile floor and admire a river view and the fall colors of Portland’s west hills. Blackburn says Central City’s five-year slog to turn this hotel into housing mirrors the struggles of the Ten Year Plan.

Ed Blackburn: “It’s not easy ending homelessness and this building wasn’t easy to keep financed. We found all things we weren’t expecting when we started tearing things apart. We worked real hard to keep things together, but it’s moving. And there are going to be setbacks but you keep moving. It’s kind of like a metaphor for the whole Ten Year Plan, this building.”

Ultimately, Blackburn agrees with city officials who don’t see much need to change the Ten Year Plan, halfway through. Portland’s new housing bureau director, Margaret Van Vliet, says the Ten Year Plan might need tweaking, but not a fundamental change.

Margaret Van Vliet: “Are we exclusively looking at the chronically homeless, or primarily looking at chronically homeless versus the newly homeless, because of the explosion in the number of newly homeless, to some extent, we’re still reacting.”

Blackburn says even though the economy has made matters worse, the Portland area is better off, thanks to a countywide focus that started when the Plan to End Homelessness was still just an idea.

Ed Blackburn: “You know that metaphor of water coming into the bathtub, and you’ve got a spoon, but it’s coming in faster than you can get it out, so the tub keeps filling up. Well, we got a big bucket about six years ago, and we started getting out the water faster than the homeless population was increasing. But now that spigot’s been turned on higher. So we’re going to have to work harder.”

Meantime, folks like Steve Powell, are grateful to have a bath tub to come home to – even as he thinks about his friends, who don’t.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Who's Dying From H1N1?

I was afraid this might be the case...

H1N1 Striking Children With Disabilities Hard, Officials Say

By Michelle Diament
October 9, 2009

The number of children who have died from the H1N1 virus is “increasing substantially,” health officials said Friday, and children with disabilities and underlying medical conditions appear to be hardest hit.

Already 76 children have died from H1N1, or swine flu, this year and the flu season is just beginning. Flu season traditionally lasts until May.

The number of deaths is especially striking given that fewer than 90 children died in each of the last three years from seasonal flu.

Most of the children who have died from the H1N1 flu strain had disabilities or underlying health conditions, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

“The majority of children that we have information on had an underlying disease,” according to Anne Schuchat, head of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Among children, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy are quite prominent.”

These findings are consistent with a CDC report released in September, which indicated that two-thirds of children who died from H1N1 during the spring and summer had a chronic illness or developmental disability.

Officials say they are hopeful that the threat of the virus will begin to subside as the swine flu vaccine becomes more readily available, but they do expect more deaths in the coming weeks.

The first doses of the vaccine were administered this week, but only a nasal spray version was available. The nasal spray contains a weakened live version of the flu virus. An injection version of the vaccine, which does not include the live virus, is expected next week.

Individuals with developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy, intellectual disability and developmental delay are considered to be at high risk for H1N1, especially if they have respiratory issues as well. Those who are at high risk are first in line for the vaccine, CDC officials say, but are advised to wait for the injection version.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What Do You Think?

There's a lot of arm-chair quarterbacking going on in Portland about what should be done with the Police Officers who allowed James Chasse to die from injuries while in their custody. My take, is that they should, in fact resign. Guess we'll see what happens. From the Oregonian newspaper...

Breaking News, Portland »
Agencies to call for resignation of Portland officers involved in Chasse's arrest
By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian
October 07, 2009, 6:02PM

Representatives of the Mental Health Assocation of Portland, along with three other agencies, tomorrow are scheduled to call for the resignation of the three officers who had contact with James P. Chasse Jr. before his death in police custody.

Speakers from the Mental Health Association of Portland, along with members of Disability Rights Oregon, the Albina Ministerial Alliance, and Mental Health America of Oregon, are scheduled to speak out at 9 a.m. at the offices of Disability Rights Oregon.

"Our city administrators and leaders have demonstrated they lack the political will to enforce accountability on this issue," said Jason Renaud, a volunteer with the Mental Health Association of Portland. "We have more confidence that the officers will voluntarily resign than that the City will terminate their employment. And we hope they do."

The groups will be calling for the resignation of Portland Sgt. Kyle Nice, Officers Christopher Humphreys and Bret Burton.

A Multnomah County grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing by the officers in Chasse's death on Sept. 17, 2006, and Chief Rosie Sizer found only Sgt. Nice violated bureau policy that night, by not ensuring that Nice had Chasse taken to a hospital after he was stunned by a Taser.

Police said the officers thought Chasse was urinating in the street and stopped him, then chased him and knocked him down and struggled with him.

Chasse, 42, who had schizophrenia, died after he was taken into custody from broad-based blunt-force trauma to the chest. An autopsy showed he suffered 26 breaks to 16 ribs, some of which punctured his left lung; 46 separate abrasions or contusions on his body, including six to the head; and 19 strikes to the torso.

The city is preparing for a March trial in federal court resulting from a civil lawsuit Chasse's family filed. It accuses officers of excessive force and the police and paramedics of failing to provide adequate medical attention. Multnomah County this summer settled its part of the lawsuit for $925,000.

Sgt. Scott Westerman, president of the Portland Police Association, said he's disturbed Renaud continues to focus on these three officers, because he said any officers would have taken the same action that night, based on their training and police policies.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

How And Where The Poor Survive In Portland

By Anna Griffen of the Oregonian

Section 8 acceptance percentages in the metro area
The percentage of landlords in communities in the four-county metro area who accept Section 8 tenants:
1. Northwest Portland: 41 percent
2. Hillsboro/north of U.S. 26: 30 percent
3. Aloha: 37 percent
4. Beaverton:35 percent
5. Downtown Portland: 16 percent
6. Southwest Portland: 18 percent
7. Tigard/Tualatin/Sherwood: 29 percent
8. Lake Oswego/West Linn: 33 percent
9. Wilsonville/Canby: 31 percent
10. Oregon City/Gladstone: 63 percent
11. Milwaukie: 53 percent
12. Clackamas: 42 percent
13. Inner and central Southeast Portland: 32 percent
14. Outer Southeast Portland: 40 percent
15. Troutdale/Fairview/Wood Village/Gresham: 44 percent
16. Outer Northeast Portland: 57 percent
17. Inner and central Northeast Portland: 45 percent
18. North Portland/St. Johns: 64 percent (where I live)
19. West Vancouver: 50 percent
20. East Vancouver: 46 percent

--Source: Metro Multifamily Housing Association


Portland law forbid landlords from discriminating on the basis of just about everything: You can't refuse to rent to someone because of their gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, political philosophy or age.

But every day, the classified ads and Craigslist postings are cluttered with examples of the one kind of renter discrimination that remains perfectly legal.

"3 bedrm, 2 bath, good schools. No smoking, no section 8."

"1 bedroom, 2 blocks from busstop, big backyard. No pets, no sct 8."

"Cute 2 bedroom, one bath. Great location. Sorry, no Section 8."

Section 8, for those of us lucky enough to know how we'll pay the bills next month, is a federal voucher program that offers poor people government assistance with most of their rent.

Benjamin Brink/The OregonianJill Riddle, at the Hollywood East apartments on Northeast Broadway, runs the Housing Authority of Portland’s rent assistance department and oversees Section 8 vouchers. “We’re trying to show landlords that this is a new Section 8,” she says. The Hollywood East complex is among the Housing Authority’s public housing options for seniors and people with disabilities.In Portland and east Multnomah County, many landlords -- especially the bigger rental companies -- will not accept Section 8 tenants. Apartments are especially hard to find the closer you get to the central city -- in other words, the place where many of the jobs are. Housing advocates want more landlords to accept the vouchers and are working to rehabilitate the program's shabby reputation.

"Landlords don't treat you like they treat other people," says Anna Avalos, a single mother of three teenagers who is looking for Section 8 housing in outer Southeast Portland. "Most of them do not give you the time of day, and the ones who do try to take advantage of you financially because they figure you don't have anywhere else to go."

Last week she was desperate enough to post an ad on Craigslist, essentially begging for help:

"i am a single mother of three...i have section 8 and not the best rental history but not the worst...i have always paid my rent on time...i have 2 weeks left to find a place or my voucher exspires..then we will be on the street..i already am staying with family and friends..i would be willing to work out any legal deals if needed."

For the folks at the Housing Authority of Portland, the quasi-public agency that coordinates affordable housing in the city, this is the nightmare scenario. They've been holding classes for property owners and managers, explaining the benefits of Section 8 and trying to answer questions and address complaints.

For more information about the Housing Authority of Portland and the Section 8 program, visit"We're trying to show landlords that this is a new Section 8," says Jill Riddle, who runs the Housing Authority's rent assistance department and oversees Section 8 vouchers for 8,000 people at any particular time.

The vouchers often represent a first step toward stability. They're intended to deter ghettos and help deconcentrate poverty, to give low-income families a chance to live in middle-class neighborhoods with better schools and more work possibilities. In Portland, demand for the vouchers is enormous; the waiting list just to be considered runs 12 to 24 months.

But many landlords don't want to be tied into the mandatory one-year lease or to have to go to court to evict tenants who violate the terms of their contract by making too much noise or sneaking in pets. Landlords want to set their own rent rather than being forced to charge the "fair market rate," a government-set standard based on the average rent in an area. They worry about hurting property values.

And Section 8 tenants, landlords say, tend to be more trouble than people who pay the rent out of their own pockets.

Greg Knakal"A lot of property owners feel their homes are going to get damaged if they rent them out using Section 8," says Greg Knakal, this year's president of the Metro Multifamily Housing Association, a coalition of landlords.

Landlords are even blunter off the record: They talk about Section 8 tenants leaving behind full and backed up toilets, carpets stained with who knows what, trash piled to the ceiling.

"It only takes one bad experience," says Knakal, whose Princeton Property Management rents approximately 8,000 units around Portland and on the coast.

"For a long time, there were no repercussions if you rented a property and trashed it. It seemed like people who got in trouble would just get a slap on the wrist, and then go and reapply for the vouchers. No price to pay. That doesn't really make you want to take part."

During last year's City Council campaign, then-candidate Nick Fish said he would push to change the law to force Oregon landlords to take Section 8 vouchers. New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C., all bar property owners from refusing, though landlords can still reject potential tenants for other reasons, such as criminal records.

Fish, who won and runs the Portland Housing Bureau, now says he wants to see whether efforts to fix the program's reputation and engage landlords work before trying to make the vouchers mandatory. (If nothing else, that's smart politics: Persuading the Oregon Legislature to force Section 8 on property owners would be extremely difficult given the fundraising power and lobbying prowess of real-estate developers.)

Instead of a full-frontal assault, Fish has organized a task force to study ways to make Section 8 work without provoking landlords.

Fredrick D. Joe/The OregonianCity Commissioner Nick Fish, who runs the Portland Housing Bureau, says he wants to see if efforts to fix the Section 8 program’s reputation work before trying to require that landlords accept the federal vouchers. Fish raised the issue when he was running for City Council. "This program is going to be most successful if landlords and government and nonprofits are all working together," he says. "We've got to do a better job showing landlords that this is a new Section 8 program, that the things they worry about have been addressed and the 'tenant from hell' doesn't exist anymore."

The Housing Authority of Portland has set up a special fund to pay for apartments that get damaged. It's hired new staff to work directly with landlords and speeded up the inspection process required before a Section 8 tenant moves in.

It's also working more closely with Section 8 tenants, both to hold miscreants accountable and help what it says are the vast majority who take care of their properties, stay employed and save money so they won't always need government help.

The economic crisis has helped sway landlords. A year and a half ago, when times were good, landlords generally looked at Section 8 renters as riskier bets than other tenants and figured they could charge whatever they wanted. The percentage of vouchers returned unused rose as high as 30 percent. (People using them usually have up to 120 days to find housing. The vouchers don't cover security deposits or utilities.)

"These days the voucher is more of a sure thing," Riddle says. "Even if the person who has it loses their job, you know they have a safety net. We are going to make sure the rent gets paid."

Still, changing the overarching image of Section 8 is going to take a long time. It's still hard to find landlords in more desirable, competitive areas who participate. A recent study by the Metro Multifamily Housing Association showed that 16 percent of downtown property owners accept Section 8 vouchers. That number increased steadily the farther from the central city you go, to 64 percent in North Portland and 57 percent in outer East Portland.

To a degree, geography doesn't matter to someone desperate for shelter. But the farther from work you live, the harder it can be to show up on time day after day, particularly if you're juggling child care needs or have a disability.

"When I first got here, I was shocked at the number of classified ads that explicitly said, 'No Section 8,' because, really, that's discriminatory. You're telling someone, 'You are poor, you have hit a financial speed bump, so I am not going to even consider you,'" says Riddle, who moved to Portland from a similar job in Salt Lake City two years ago. "If you look at the paper now, it's better. But we still have a lot of hard work to do."

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Is This Really News?

As I've been saying for a long time; if you have a disability, watch your back. I found this report on out of Kansas...

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- People with disabilities are 50 percent more likely to be victims of violent crimes than are people without disabilities, according to a government study released Thursday.

The first national study of its kind found that a wide range of disabled people -- including blind, deaf, developmentally disabled, and others with physical and mental limitations -- were victims of assaults, rapes and robberies in 716,000 cases in 2007.

The study by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics said instances of violence against disabled people occurred overall 1.5 times the rate of those without disabilities, but the numbers varied by age group.

The most vulnerable groups were disabled people ages 12 to 19 and 35 to 49, for whom victimization occurred at nearly twice the rate of non-disabled persons.

Michael Rand, chief of victimization research for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, did not speculate on the reasons for the findings.

"It's hard to say," Rand said. "We didn't try to get at motivations." A co-author of the study, Rand said many of the crimes were committed by people who did not know their victims. Forty percent of the crimes against disabled male victims were committed by strangers, versus 45 percent against those without disabilities.

The difference for females was greater: 34 percent of disabled females were victimized by strangers versus 24 percent for women without disabilities.

The study found that people with cognitive disabilities -- such as mental retardation, developmental disabilities and cerebral palsy -- represented the largest group of victims.

Simple assaults accounted for about two-thirds of the crimes against disabled people in the study, which tallied 476,000 simple assaults, 114,000 aggravated assaults, 79,000 robberies, and 47,000 rapes or sexual assaults.

I Thought This Might Be Coming

A few days ago I posted the words to a Public Service Announcement put out by a group that calls themselves "Autism Speaks". I mentioned how this PSA had pissed off a lot of people. Below is a letter written to the donors, supporters, and sponsors of "Autism Speaks". Thought I'd post it here in case others want to sign on. DAWG has...

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network and other organizations representing the Cross-Disability Community are distributing this joint letter to the sponsors, donors and supporters of Autism Speaks following the organization's latest offensive and damaging Public Service Announcement, "I am Autism". If you are an organization that would like to sign on to the letter, please e-mail ASAN at before Close of Business Tuesday, October 6th, 2009. If you are an individual who would like to join ASAN's upcoming protests of Autism Speaks in Ohio, New England, New York City and elsewhere across the country please e-mail ASAN at Thank you for your support and please feel free to distribute for additional signatories.

To the Sponsors, Donors and Supporters of Autism Speaks:

We, the undersigned organizations representing self advocates, parents, professionals and allies in the Autism, Autistic and Disability Communities, are writing to you to express our concern about the recent actions of Autism Speaks. Our work is about helping empower and support people with disabilities of all kinds, including adults and youth on the autism spectrum, and we recognize that there are a wide variety of means towards accomplishing this goal. Yet, Autism Speaks’ recent choice to use fear, stigma, misinformation and prejudice against Autistic people as a fundraising tool does real damage to people with disabilities everywhere. The most recent example of this lack of ethics can be found in Autism Speaks’ new “I am Autism” campaign which states, “I am autism...I know where you live...I work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer and diabetes combined. And if you're happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain...I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, birthday party, or public park without a struggle, without embarrassment, without pain...I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness."

Not only does this campaign rely on offensive stereotypes and inaccurate information (research indicates that parents of Autistic children are not more likely to divorce than parents of non-Autistic children), but it also does real damage to the cause of disability rights. By choosing to portray Autistic people as husks of real people, stolen out of our own bodies, Autism Speaks reinforces stereotypes and prejudice against people with disabilities that have existed for centuries and have been the source of pain, segregation and violence.

We are calling on you to end your support for Autism Speaks and to find new ways to show your support for Autistic people and others with disabilities. As the result of a pattern of unethical behavior and irresponsible governance, outlined below, we believe that Autism Speaks as an organization no longer deserves your time, energy, money and support.

Autism Speaks uses damaging and offensive fundraising tactics which rely on fear, stereotypes and devaluing the lives of people on the autism spectrum: Autism Speaks’ unethical fundraising tactics are not limited to the new “I am Autism” video. Its television Public Service Announcements compare having a child on the autism spectrum to having a child caught in a fatal car accident or struck by lightning. In fact, the idea of autism as a fate worse than death is a frequent theme in their fundraising and awareness efforts, going back to their “Autism Every Day” film in 2005. Indeed, throughout Autism Speaks’ fundraising is a consistent and unfortunate theme of fear, pity and prejudice, presenting Autistic adults and children not as full human beings but as burdens on society that must be eliminated as soon as possible.

Very little money donated to Autism Speaks goes toward helping Autistic people and families: According to their 2008 annual report, only 4% of Autism Speaks’ budget goes towards the “Family Service” grants that are the organization’s means of funding services. Given the huge sums of money Autism Speaks raises from local communities as compared to the miniscule sums it gives back, it is not an exaggeration to say that Autism Speaks is a tremendous drain on the ability of communities to fund autism service-provision and education initiatives Furthermore, while the bulk of Autism Speaks’ budget (65%) goes toward genetic and biomedical research, only a small minority of Autism Speaks’ research budget goes towards research oriented around improving services, supports, treatments and educational methodologies, with most funding going towards basic research oriented around causation and genetic research, including the prospect of prenatal testing. Although Autism Speaks has not prioritized services with a practical impact for families and individuals in its budget, its rates of executive pay are the highest in the autism world, with annual salaries as high as $600,000 a year.

Autism Speaks excludes the people it pretends to represent: Autism Speaks is one of an increasingly few number of major disability advocacy organizations that refuse to include any individual with the disability they purport to serve on their board of directors or at any point in their leadership and decision-making processes. In large part due to Autism Speaks’ public relations strategy of presenting Autistic people as silent burdens on society rather than human beings with thoughts, feelings and opinions, Autism Speaks’ governance policies are deeply unrepresentative and out of step with the mainstream of the disability non-profit community.

Contrary to the “I am Autism” video, which equates autism with AIDS and Cancer, autism is not a terminal disease. It is a disability, one that comes with significant challenges in a wide variety of realms. Yet the answer to those challenges is not to create a world in which people are afraid of people on the autism spectrum. The answer is not to create a world in which the word autism is met with terror, hatred and prejudice. It is to work to create a society that recognizes the civil rights of Autistic people and others with disabilities. It is to work to create a world in which people with disabilities can benefit from the supports, the services and the educational tools necessary to empower them to be full citizens in society.

We are Autism’s true voice – Autistic people and those with other disabilities ourselves, and our allies, family members, friends and supporters. Autism Speaks does not speak for us. We are not stolen – we are right here. Our lives may be difficult – but they are worth living. Autism Speaks Does Not Speak For Us and we will not work with an organization that relies on damaging and offensive stereotypes to advance an agenda out of step with those they purport to represent. We call upon you to recognize this and find better avenues for your admirable desire to support Autistic people and our families. We call upon you to end your support for Autism Speaks.



The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE)
The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund
The National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN)
Autism Network International (ANI)
Little People of America (LPA)

Not Dead Yet
The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Autistic Spectrum Partnership In Research and Education (AASPIRE)
Mothers From Hell 2
Autistic Self-Advocacy Network-Australia
Autism Rights Group Highland (in Scotland, United Kingdom)
The Autistic Community of Israel
Autreach IT in the United Kingdom
The Southwest Autistic Rights Movement (SWARM) in the United Kingdom

Local and Regional:
The Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, NY
The Regional Center for Independent Living in Rochester, NY
The Michigan Disability Rights Coalition
The Institute for Disability Access in Austin, Texas
The Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education
The Paraquad Center for Independent Living in St. Louis, Missouri
The Lonesome Doves in Pennsylvania
TASH-New England
Together Enhancing Autism Awareness in Mississippi (TEAAM)
Wesleyan Students for Disability Rights at Wesleyan University in Connecticut
Tangram in Indianapolis, Indiana