Letter to the editor: Councilor needs to support homeless

In an April 24 article ("Portland city councilors want to protect funding for dental clinic"), Portland City Councilor Jon Hinck was quoted: "If we have to choose between programs that go to homeless adults and child dental care, we’ve got to save the child dental care."

We find this comment to be not only alarming, but also contradictory to something he’d previously stated to our group. His statement also implies that councilors must choose between these two critical programs. This is indeed a false dilemma.

Every year, Homeless Voices for Justice hosts a forum for City Council candidates at the soup kitchen.

While questions vary each year, we always end the event with the same question: "If elected, will you uphold the city of Portland’s commitment to provide emergency shelter for anyone who needs it?" This question stems from the promise made in the 1980s by the city and then-City Manager Robert Ganley to provide emergency shelter for anyone in need.

On Oct. 11, 2013, Hinck, then a City Council candidate, answered the above question firmly and without doubt: "Yes." We took his answer seriously and viewed it as a promise to our community.

But after reading his comment in reference to closing the overflow shelter, we are greatly saddened to find that Councilor Hinck has had a change of heart.

At a time when services to people living in homelessness and poverty are on the chopping block, we hope our elected officials would stand strong to protect the most basic human needs.

Our city councilors, especially those who’ve stated they’d uphold Portland’s long-standing commitment, should not be turning their backs on the people who rely on their leadership the most.

We hope Councilor Hinck changes his mind. But if not, we feel he owes the nearly 500 people who rely on shelter in Portland each night an apology.

Jim Devine
Homeless Voices for Justice