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Local groups band together and propose a new way for Portland businesses to support our homeless community

Editor's note: This month's column was written by Chris Bright, the new chair of the BBPDX Board of Directors, organizer of The Pledge, and co-founder of Zapproved.

THE PLEDGE PDX

My work in homeless advocacy got its start when both my home and office moved downtown.

I witnessed the number of people sleeping outside increase with every passing year. I saw it every day, and it was clear that more needed to be done to help. After looking for ways to engage, I learned about Business for a Better Portland, an organization now with 400 members working on finding policy solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis. The company I co-founded signed on as the organization's first member in 2016 with the recognition that our business could only truly thrive when the community was able to thrive too.

ASHLEY HENRYI then learned about Street Roots' work and leadership in providing support and opportunities. I became a volunteer and got our employees involved with Street Roots as well, but I was frustrated with reading about how some businesses were looking to exclude and erase the homeless. I was looking for a way for the business community at large to take ownership of our responsibility to create compassionate solutions. Then I learned about The Pledge — a collaborative effort between organizations and businesses working to address homelessness and provide community members with crucial support.

The Pledge is a new concept inspired by a successful model that originated in France and launched stateside in Seattle in 2016 as an off-shoot of the nonprofit

. Portland is leading the Pledge's expansion, along with New York and Tacoma. In Seattle, more than 40 businesses participate and have had overwhelmingly positive experiences supporting and interacting with their neighbors.

CHRIS BRIGHTBy signing The Pledge, businesses can join their peers to help people experiencing homelessness in meaningful and immediate ways. While we work on long-term solutions to ease this crisis, our homeless neighbors need our immediate assistance, and businesses can change the narrative from one of exclusion to one of humanity and compassion.

Here's how it works: Your business displays a window sticker that signals to the community that people are welcome. The sign will show what crucial services are available. This can range from complimentary food or coffee, use of a restroom, outlets to charge devices, or just warmth and a safe respite. These are just a few of the options available to you to learn more about by visiting: www.pledgetohelp.org/pdx. Pledge organizers will provide a resource guide to help educate employees on services that can support those whom they believe could use it. Even if your business doesn't have a storefront or public access, you can join the Pledge by volunteering in a shelter, hosting a coffee or meal in your lobby, or providing much-needed items to organizations that can use them.

From what we know from our peers in Seattle, not only will participants find the experience heartening, but it will be good for business too. Our community is filled with compassionate consumers who will direct their buying power to those who are lending a hand to those in need. Businesses that join the movement will be featured on The Pledge website and in ongoing advertisements in Street Roots, which reaches an estimated 25,000 readers each week.

The Pledge is being launched in collaboration with Business for a Better Portland, Street Roots, B Local PDX and Portland State University's Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative. With our combined efforts, we can create a movement to support and engage our homeless neighbors and demonstrate the power of inclusion.

It's 2020, and this crisis has gone on for far too long. Let's make this the year we take action. We have a chance to address homelessness on multiple fronts — through an upcoming regional ballot measure that will fund critical services and through our direct action as business owners and managers. Together, we can recognize and support the human needs of our neighbors and create a stronger, safer and better Portland for all of us. I'll pledge to that.

Ashley Henry is the Executive Director for Business For A Better Portland. She can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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