Friday, July 12, 2013

Willow Frost speaks before the City Council

Could you get a good night's sleep in this situation?
On July 11th, 2013, Willow spoke brilliantly before the city council - here is what she said:

Hello, my name is Willow Frost, and I'm houseless. I became a member of Right 2 Dream Too in March, and since then, I've learned a lot concerning the homeless population of Portland. The first being this: sleep is a biological need that cannot and will not be denied forever.

According to the Point-in-Time count of homelessness done in Multnomah County, there are 2,869 people who meet the definition of "literally homeless". Literal homelessness is defined by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development as "any person sleeping in an emergency shelter, sleeping in a motel provided by a voucher, or without shelter." Of this number of people, 1,895 are not receiving shelter.

To make this a clearer picture, that is 66% of the homeless population - living, breathing people who have a need for sleep - huddling under whatever shelter they can to stay out of the rain, or trekking to an inconvenient location to keep from getting woken up by police officers. Some of these locations make it difficult to come back into the city to look for work, go to school, or even just to receive services for food and showers.

My last point aside, sleep is obviously a very important thing for the human body. A study performed by the San Diego based University of California showed that sleep deprivation can cause slurring of speech, loss of coordination and manual dexterity, loss of cognitive function, delayed or interrupted perceptive ability, and in cases of prolonged or repeated sleep deprivation, mania and hallucinations.

">If this list of symptoms sounds like reasons police confront a person for suspicion of drug use, that’s because it is. In many cases, a police officer will wake up a homeless person, tell them to move on, and that person will begin their day. Many times this means a person is getting less than four or five hours of sleep in a night, and in some cases less than two or three. And then, when those people who were denied rest by the police begin to exhibit these symptoms, they stand less of a chance to get a job, be able to pay attention in school, or even function in the general society. They even stand a chance of going to jail because of mental and physical symptoms caused by lack of sleep.

As I stated before, sleep is a biological imperative. It’s going to happen whether it’s legal or not, and I personally would rather see a person sleep safe and away from traffic, than to see them pass out while crossing a street. I would also prefer to see a person sleeping at Right 2 Dream Too, instead of out on the sidewalks where they stand a chance of being entered into the vicious cycle I previously mentioned.

Right 2 Survive, and by direct action, Right 2 Dream Too, are filling a role that is sorely needed in Downtown Portland. The need for a grassroots organization catering to homeless people, run by the homeless, formerly homeless, and their allies to keep people off the streets, teach them their rights, and extend a warm, welcoming hand that says “Yeah, you might not have a home, you might be in a really bad spot right now, and you may think you have nothing. But guess what? We’re here for you. It’s not gonna be easy, but let us help you help yourself. Come in, sleep for twelve hours, have some food, then go about your day. And at the end of it, come back. We’ll welcome you back with open arms.”

Currently, the City is fining us. I won’t claim to be able to quote the exact amount, but it’s confusing to me that the city would be opposed to an organization that can, in a 24 hour period take up to 90 of those 1,895 non-sheltered people that I mentioned before, and give them a place to sleep without worry. I would appreciate, as I’m sure would the entire homeless community, if the City would re-evaluate its response to, and actions toward Right to Dream Too, and possibly even look into approving more organizations like us."

Photograph is creative commons from the internet.
Posted by Ruthie B


  1. Thank you for sharing this testimony that goes to the heart of the issue of why R2DToo should be supported by the city, not fined.

  2. Huh. Well, sure, no problem. It was just something I wrote down and said. While it's all true, it wasn't super extravagant or something. If fact, speaking in front of the City Council was slightly underwhelming.

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  4. It might be that (underwhelming) - however, by saying what you did you educated the public that much more - kind of like spreading seeds - and it might be that you are a good public speaker - so well done.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I also shared my experience of houselessness while I was a teen.