A proposal for Dignity Village to set up camp at Portland State University has been floating around now for nearly three weeks.
The PSU administration has rejected the idea. The student government has taken no direct action on the proposal other than to appoint a senator to explore it further.
We believe there is a need to find viable solutions to the problems of homelessness, and we see Dignity Village as one of those solutions. However, supporting Dignity Village as an entity and inviting it to Portland State are not inseparable concepts.
While the Vanguard applauds the efforts of Dignity Village, we do not believe that hosting the village for even the proposed six months is appropriate.
The university is ill-equipped to handle the plethora of issues that would inevitably come with the village’s presence, such as the influx of homeless citizens, both village members and visitors, on and around campus.
Some supporters might ask, if not the university, then who? Multnomah County and the City of Portland already provide tax-supported social services to address homelessness within their boundaries.
Why is it that Dignity Village, a self-sufficient group of homeless citizens, must turn to other sources – such as PSU – for the support it needs to succeed?
Those who support bringing Dignity Village to campus would have us believe that the administration is dodging its responsibility to the community by turning this group away. In fact, if the administration allows the village to come, it will be assisting the county and city in avoiding their basic responsibilities to the homeless.
According to Dr. Douglas Samuels, Vice Provost of Student Affairs, a city Commissioner’s office has implied they would “support” a “pilot program” at Portland State. After over a year of shuffling Dignity Village around the city, and withholding any real support for the camp, the city would certainly love to have this issue off its back.
If PSU accepts the villagers for the six months proposed, the villagers will, next spring, fall back into the hands of non-responsive local government.
The students who are supporting Dignity Village are compassionate persons who care about the well-being of their fellow citizens. This should be recognized and commended as a virtue, not a fault. However, sometimes the quickest, easiest solution is not the best solution.
If the issue of homelessness and support of Dignity Village compels students to action, as the Vanguard believes it should, that action would be far more effective if it were directed at putting pressure on the city and county and helping the villagers find a permanent home off campus.