Life and Death Lottery

Portland’s most vulnerable homeless men and women have a shot a free housing.  The new Bud Clark Center will house 130 people — but will it work?

From the Portland Tribune:

Tribune Photo:
Christopher Onstott 

John hasn’t had a place to live in four years. Being in and out of jail is the closest he’s come to that. 

A longtime methamphetamine addict, John (not his real name) says he mostly uses marijuana now. John also suffers from severe mental illness, including depression. 

John, in his 40s, is articulate and resourceful. After years of on-and-off homelessness, he has learned where to go for a hot meal or a shower. That resourcefulness is about to cost him a place to live. 

As the Housing Authority of Portland prepares to open its $47 million Bud Clark Commons near Union Station in Old Town, workers at four community health care clinics have administered Vulnerability Index tests to the city’s homeless. The 130 people with the highest scores — basically those most likely to die or get assaulted if left out on the street — will be offered apartments in the LEED-certified building. 

The 130 apartments in the commons represent one of the more dramatic housing experiments that the city and the housing authority have attempted. Because of the way the tests measure vulnerability, tenants will include people who are trying out recovery living next to those still using drugs and alcohol, and those prone to violence next to longtime assault victims. 

Two weeks ago John took the test. So did Cindy.

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