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  • Writer's pictureChurch@thePark

HOMELESSNESS MYTHS


This one might not actually be a myth. People do get bus tickets from communities, agencies, churches, and individuals. If someone came to us at C@P to ask for a bus ticket to another community where they could be closer to family, or for a job opportunity, we would likely work with that individual to help them get where they wanted to go. This happens all the time, everywhere. There are plenty of ways for this to be abused, by the ones receiving the tickets and the ones giving the tickets.


The buttons below link to articles from news agencies that investigate this myth. There are positive stories, like a police officer in Seattle who uses his own money to buy bus and plane tickets to help people. And there are not-so-positive stories, like one agency that would give people tickets only if people agreed to never return to that community.


Based on the way that this idea gets communicated and shared, it might be more accurately labeled as a conspiracy theory. What we often hear is that Salem’s unhoused population is high because there are communities out there—Portland is the one most often referenced—that are bussing large numbers of people to Salem just to get rid of them. This idea is heard throughout the nation. Spokane is bussing people to Seattle. San Francisco is bussing people to Sacramento. Again, there is an element of truth to this idea. People do get bus tickets to go from Portland to Salem (and vice versa). Some communities have bussing programs. But none of the research supports the idea that people are being sent to one particular community, or that it is one-way. The communities and agencies that are providing the tickets work with people to identify places where they have family, friends, housing, or employment opportunities.


Conspiracy theories often obscure the truth. And they distract us from working to address real root causes. Affirming or amplifying this conspiracy theory might make us feel better about our community, that our unsheltered crisis is due to neighboring communities (and therefore not our responsibility).


In this case, we know that the majority of people who are unsheltered in Salem were housed in the area before they became unsheltered (see our previous newsletter). And we know there are things we can do to reduce the number of unsheltered people in our community. In the past year, by providing safe, stable, and supportive sheltering, C@P has helped 195 unsheltered people make the move into more positive destinations. Others are being helped by places like Arches, UGM, Simonka House, and other agencies in Salem. When private citizens, faith communities, non-profits, governments, and businesses work together, we can help Salem to become a safe, healthy, thriving, livable community for everybody.

 

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