Monday, December 31, 2018

The Montavilla Initiative

I'm a bleeding heart on homelessness, mostly because the leftist media gets the story all wrong, all the time. As noted previously, the bulk of O.C. homeless have been regular white working-class folks, busted down after the 2008 crash. It's not all Latinos and other minorities. Go to Anaheim and see for yourself.

In any case, at the Los Angeles Times, "Neighborhood advocates or vigilantes? A group in Portland makes life tougher for the homeless" (via Hot Air):
The Montavilla neighborhood is a place just about anybody might want to live in.

It has an “almost suburban” feel, a city website notes, but it’s near downtown Portland, with a population that’s more diverse than the city as a whole. Homes range from pricey modern to modest bungalow; businesses of every stripe do a bustling trade.

Last year Montavilla made Lonely Planet’s list of the 10 best U.S. neighborhoods.

It also broke apart over homelessness and rising crime.

Like many American cities, Portland struggles with homelessness. What’s the solution to getting people off the streets? What’s the right balance between compassion and safety? Why does the world’s richest country have so many people living in tents?

Last month, Portland-area voters funded $653 million for affordable housing, on top of $258 million in 2016. These are major investments for a city its size. But relief may be years away.

In Montavilla, the debate over homelessness has taken on an edge in the last two years as a neighborhood patrol has marched up to the line of vigilantism — and, some say, crossed it. Experts say similar groups have sprung up in other cities, including Long Beach and the west San Fernando Valley, as a conservative, tough-love response to the problem.

In June 2017, the Montavilla Neighborhood Assn. passed a resolution asking the city to “cease further sweeps of [homeless] camps,” which could be “unconstitutional and human rights violations.”

That fall, a new board of directors was voted in that included Micah Fletcher, a survivor of last year’s infamous stabbings by a white supremacist on a light rail train. Around the same time, however, a new conservative nonprofit, Montavilla Initiative, formed as an alternative. Battle lines hardened.

Montavilla Initiative began doing its own foot patrols; the city-partnered neighborhood association stopped doing them.

Interactions between citizen patrol groups led by Montavilla Initiative and the area’s homeless are now at the center of the neighborhood’s divide. On the one hand, local officials and homeless advocates accuse Montavilla Initiative of harassing vulnerable homeless people. On the other, leaders of the nonprofit say homeless encampments foster crime, and they’re just trying to make the neighborhood safer.

Multnomah County official Kim Toevs said Montavilla Initiative members harassed people who use the county’s largest needle exchange site, part of a program that has operated for 22 years in the neighborhood. It offers addiction counseling, exchanges millions of syringes annually, and gives out naloxone, proven to save lives by halting overdoses.

The county had to hire extra security after seven visits by the group, officials said.

“What we see here, about [their] behavior, harassing our clients, and making them feel stalked and scared, is hateful action,” Toevs said.

Ibrahim Mubarak, executive director of a homeless advocacy group, Right 2 Survive, said Montavilla Initiative members are “running havoc on houseless people,” slashing their tents, throwing cold water on them, following them around. “They’re all about getting [homeless] people out of the neighborhood,” he said.

Mubarak later acknowledged, however, that he had not witnessed the incidents himself, and had no proof that they were committed by Montavilla Initiative. “This is happening in the neighborhood to those people, but we don’t know for sure that it’s Montavilla Initiative,” he said.

Of 15 homeless people interviewed for this article, many said they’re aware of what they call the “neighborhood watchers.” One voiced support, but most said they were afraid of them. They don’t seem to differentiate between the new, Montavilla Initiative patrols and the ones the neighborhood association used to do...