The Time Is Now

Support local, independent reporting.

Help the city we love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

SUPPORT WW

Readers Respond to Allegations of Clubby Connections Among Homeless Service Providers

“The problem with conflicts of interest is not some sort of moral failure. The problem is that they inevitably narrow the decision making.”

Last week, WW examined a controversy simmering among Portland-area officials distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to aid homeless people (“Cozy Quarters,” WW, Oct. 6, 2021). Several critics, including City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, say the office tasked with handing out the money is too cozy with the organizations receiving the funds. One example examined in the story: the case of Kristina Smock, a consultant who has received several contracts in the orbit of her husband, Marc Jolin, who runs the Joint Office of Homeless Services. Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury defended Jolin’s integrity. Here’s what our readers had to say:

Eric A Blair, via Twitter: “Everyone in Portland needs to read this article. Honestly, this is one of the most underreported and underappreciated aspects of the homelessness crisis. Do those involved have an incentive to solve it? Or, are the incentives in the direction to perpetuate it? Follow the money.”

Ils, via wweek.com: “I have known Marc for years and years. I do not think he is the type to take advantage of his work to gain illegally or underhandedly.”

ross williams, via wweek.com: “Defending Jolin’s sincerity is irrelevant. Despite what Kafoury seems to believe, the problem with conflicts of interest is not some sort of moral failure. The problem is that they inevitably narrow the decision making.

“You can see it in Kafoury’s own response to homelessness, which confuses the issue with the need for affordable workforce housing. There is a need for a bigger supply of affordable housing, but building more houses isn’t going to get the homeless off the streets or into a stable housing. Telling the housing developers (nonprofit or not) that they aren’t the solution to homelessness is not going to cause them to change their business model to address the issue. Nor is it reasonable to expect they would, regardless of their sincere interest in the problem.

“Nor are you going to get someone who is part of the homeless services industry to shift to a model that eliminates the need for their services. Broken or not, they aren’t going to change their business model, and you can’t expect someone with deep personal ties to that industry to break it either.

“As usual, Hardesty is right. She is challenging an established orthodoxy’s failures, but that’s not necessarily popular with those political leaders who have an interest in preserving the status quo.”

Jeremy Roark, via Facebook: “Maybe they should include some actual homeless folks in the planning and decision making instead of a bunch of people whose lifelong privilege puts them at too great a distance from reality to really know what’s needed.”

Will Harris, via Facebook: “I’ve known Marc for 20 years. Worked with him on the streets for five. Self-serving was not something I ever saw from him. It fundamentally contradicts his character. The article is a poorly framed hit piece on the system that itself is self-serving in tapping into community angst on this issue. As for some of these other comments, there are efforts to bring homeless voices to the table. There are people at the table impacted by homelessness. And if you think professionals with decades of experience doing the work shouldn’t be at the table, as the article implies, I’m not sure you’re thinking about this in a constructive way. This article definitely wasn’t.”


Correction

Last week’s cover story (“Things Will Die,” WW, Oct. 6, 2021) incorrectly listed the number of bears that were illegally killed in Oregon in 2020 as 43. The correct number was 13, bringing the 2020 total to 417. WW regrets the error.

LETTERS to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: PO Box 10770, Portland, OR 97296. Email: mzusman@wweek.com.