There exists a class of seemingly intractable social challenges whose solution – or apparent solution – requires examining the underlying, extant socio-technical systems we’re living with today. These are systems that, either as an externality or by design, displace and uproot people and communities. Questions, then, of how we collectively care for each other arise in the face of these challenges. Welcoming immigrants and refugees, ensuring fair access to rights and privileges of citizenship regardless of wealth/race/class, providing healthcare, and assisting those struggling with their mental health and others with unresolved trauma are examples of challenges manifesting themselves in light of, or as a result of, systemic conditions.
Homelessness, as a local instance of uprootedness, is another such challenge facing our city today and where we must ask ourselves: “What are the systems or system characteristics we live with today that enable homelessness to emerge?”
We hypothesize that the displacement of people within Portland is not accidental, but an emergent property of our current public and private systems of governance and exchange. This study puts the experience of Portland's refugees and forced migrants in conversation with those experiencing housing instability and works to re-frame vulnerability, instability, homelessness as a system transformation problem.
Our activities include comprehending the broad challenge(s) of homelessness, characterizing what we don’t understand today and need to understand, creating forums for community discussion and engagement and working toward understanding the catalytic points necessary to shift our current systems where we take care of each other by exception to ones where we take care of each other by default.
Our project Possible Portland starts with our podcast which, in its first episodes speaks with a woman who has experienced ongoing houselessness and displacement as well as with someone who is working within the system and against its failings.
Tony Salvador is a citizen researcher and former Director of Experience Insights Research Interaction & Experience Research Lab at Intel. He holds a PhD from Tufts University in experimental psychology. He's working with Portland Meet Portland to understand the systems around homelessness and how we can (re-)design our government systems so we take care of each other by default rather than by exception. He's also a Senior Fellow with the Center for Public Service at Portland State University. His life’s work has been to understand the lived experience of people who aren't him and represent that to other people so they can talk to one another – whether through a government program or a new business model, a new kind of service or a community center, a new product or a new school.
For 30 years that's what he's done, starting with control room designs for Air Route Traffic Control Centers to Telephone Network Monitoring centers to introducing ethnographic work at Intel Corporation. His work has been building that competency on a world-wide basis, developing products and leading research teams to understand the relationship between people and systems.
Kamala GhaneaBassiri is a project intern at Portland Meet Portland. Kamala was a member of the Youth Leaders in Action Advisory Council for WorldOregon (previously World Affairs Council of Oregon). She was the President of Model United Nations (MUN) at Lake Oswego High School (LOHS) and a committee chair at the 2018 Oregon MUN Conference. She wrote and page designed for her high school’s newspaper, Lake Views, and was the Editor-in-Chief for her school’s literary arts magazine, Reflections. She is the creator, Editor-in-Chief, page designer and writer for the COLOR Zine, a publication focused on giving marginalized students at Lake Oswego High School a voice. Portland Meet Portland’s focus on creating rewarding relationships for refugees and immigrants echoes some of the work Kamala has done for her community as a tutor for Catholic Charities’ Kateri Park, an affordable housing development serving immigrant and refugee families in inner SE Portland. Through this podcast series, Kamala hopes to research the effects of governmental systems on immigrant, refugee and homeless communities in the Portland-Metropolitan area and share the experiences of people who are facing or have faced homelessness. In doing so, Kamala also hopes to humanize homelessness, shed light on the diverse causes of homelessness and give people experiencing homelessness a more prominent voice in our current society.