After 55 days, activist Cameron Whitten ended his hunger strike outside city hall today with—what else?—a Voodoo Doughnut the size of his head.
Voodoo donated a few dozen doughnuts to the event, including a specially made vegan donut for Whitten that was filled with banana cream, had a banana on top, and was covered in chocolate chips. I think it looked pretty gross but Whitten, who has consumed only liquids for over a month, insisted it was delicious.
City commissioners and Whitten came to an agreement to end his hunger strike, but it doesn't meet any of the specific demands he laid out during his strike. In a statement today, the council praised Whitten's "heart, tenacity and smarts" and agreed to participate in a Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing, to "engage in ongoing conversations about the futures of Right 2 Dream 2 and Dignity Village," and to support a public vote on a new dedicated funding source for affordable housing at some point in the future when "the time is right." So... lots of "heart" but nothing concrete in terms of policy changes.
Read the full statement below the cut. In the meantime, there are probably still some free donuts outside city hall right now.
For nearly two months, Cameron Whitten has demonstrated outside City Hall to raise awareness of the plight of people experiencing homelessness in our community. We admire Cameron’s heart, tenacity and smarts. His advocacy reminds us there are always ways to learn more and continuously improve across jurisdictions.
Portland is recognized nationally as a local government innovator in preventing homelessness and providing affordable housing services. Our innovations are under threat with budget cuts to federal, state and local safety net services. And more budget cuts are possible at a time when safety net services are needed most.
We believe new solutions must be focused not only on shelter but also on strengthening all aspects of a person’s life. We know this now better than before: We just completed the Portland Plan — the official 25-year strategic plan for the City of Portland. At its core the Portland Plan focuses us on multi-faceted approaches to prosperity, education, health and equity.
Thus, we accept the constructive challenge offered by Cameron Whitten to renew our efforts to find local housing solutions for those suffering from homelessness. At Cameron’s request, Portland will enthusiastically participate in the proposed Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing to be convened by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.
We believe solving our local housing challenges is best accomplished with a stronger regional partnership involving advocates, agencies, non-profit and faith communities, and people experiencing homelessness. After the November elections is an opportune time to take a new look at regional homeless and affordable housing issues, as we welcome newly-elected leaders to the table.
The scope of the Regional Summit on Homelessness and Housing should include but is not limited to:
What is the state of homelessness in our community?
How are government agencies throughout the region and organizations in the non-profit, business, and faith sectors working together to address this crisis?
How can we strengthen these partnerships?
How will regional leaders support this work?
In addition to the Summit, the City is engaged in ongoing conversations about the futures of Right 2 Dream 2 and Dignity Village. When the time is right, we believe a future City Council will support a public vote on a new dedicated funding source for affordable housing. We are looking forward to working with Cameron Whitten and others in the region on homeless and housing issues, and we will continue our everyday work to support Portlanders experiencing homelessness.