It’s a common belief that Portland’s problems with homelessness result from a drug addiction problem. But that’s not what research shows. Morgan Godvin serves on the Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council and is a post-graduate fellow at Northeastern University’s drug policy research organization, The Action Lab. Godvin points to the rising cost of housing:
Your own experiences with addiction led you to a jail sentence, but never to you living on the streets. What’s your theory on why that was?
“I was never homeless because I could always pay my rent. I became addicted to heroin here in Portland around 2009. And if we got enough of us into an apartment, we were paying $200 a month. With this explosion of homelessness, I hear a lot of people trying to blame addiction. That just doesn't align with my experience, because my friends and I, we were equally as addicted. And yet, we weren't in the tents.”
You're a member of the Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council. Where do you see it succeeding and falling short?
“The fact that Oregon has taken the bold step to diminish the war on drugs and to stop arresting people for simple drug possession, that is a win for human rights. The war on drugs is a racist tool of oppression. When we look at the states with the highest drug overdose rate — West Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee — those states all have incredibly punitive drug policies.”
Are you guys afraid of the backlash that might be coming? There's a group that's filed a petition to repeal aspects of the measure.
“The fact that they're calling it ‘Fix Measure 110’ is semantics. They are absolutely returning to criminalization. Anybody who bought weed before 2016 knows that buying drugs isn't on the same moral footing as stealing or crimes of violence. [And] we do not have effective law enforcement responding to the actual crime that we are facing on our city streets. Why would you want to target drug possession?”