Donald Skinner, Milwaukie
Donald Skinner is a renter in Milwaukie. He shared the following testimony with Milwaukie City Council in March 2018. Re-shared with permission.
My name is Donald Skinner, and I’m a member of Community Alliance of Tenants. I've lived in Milwaukie since 1984.
During that time, I've been blessed by living in public housing. If it weren't for that, I'd be in the streets.
When I first came in 76, homelessness was rare, but now it is spreading like wildfire. I've lived on the streets, seen poverty, dumpster dived for food. Many people have. I've known family and friends who have couch surfed and lived in abandoned buildings...
Homelessness terrorizes people. Families, friends, and others care about homeless people. Living on the street isn't easy. You can't carry very much. You have to restock every day.
I've seen Clackamas County deteriorate. At this moment, I'm okay, but others aren't.
This will only get worse if things don't change. Gentrification continues, people may have to move anyway. Rents are going up and tenants don’t have anywhere to live. Please support relocation assistance for renters so that more people are not pushed into the streets.
Charmaine is a single mother of three children. Her family lived in the St. Johns neighborhood for nearly all their lives. Recently, they were forced to move out after their rent was increased and Charmaine asked the landlord to make some much-needed repairs.
My family has been active in our North Portland community for long as I can remember. This is my community. A community that I grew up in. I feel like I know almost everyone. My parents still live in the same home in Piedmont that I lived in when I was in high school. I’m a single mother of three beautiful children. And until recently, we lived in our St. Johns home that we rented for the past 7 years. My kids went to Woodlawn Elementary school and I hoped they would go to their neighborhood high school and continue to part of the growth happening at Roosevelt.
For my two younger children, this was the only home they have really known. We loved this home and our beloved community. I treated this home as mine and put a lot of my own time and hard-earned money into making the small improvements that I could enjoy.
This life I have worked so hard to create for me and my children all came to a screeching halt in September 2016.
First, I received a notice from our landlords that they would be raising our rent by $150.00. This is a lot of money, especially for single mother who is also trying to support and provide for her family. But, I was willing to do whatever I could to try and make it work, especially if the landlord would make some much-needed repairs.
Our home had a mice problem and a carpet that needed to be fixed due to the landlord’s son putting it in as opposed to a professional. Those were just a couple of
the major things. I thought it was only fair to have these fixes made if our rent was going to go up by so much.
Our landlord refused and instead we were served a notice to move from our home within 90 days. It was clear that we were being retaliated against.
I was upset because I feared for me and my kids. I didn’t know where we’d go or what we would do. And I still am afraid that my children won’t have a home with the high rental rates in our community.
We have been forced to start over. Not only do I have to find a new home and community to live in but my kids may have to transition to a new school and possibly a new school district.
Why should we have to start over? Why should my kids have to leave everything they’ve known? What kind of city and community are we creating? There seems to be no compassion for the families who have helped to build the community.
I’m a fighter and like to know all my rights so I do a lot research. Luckily I was able to get a hold of the Community Alliance of Tenants. They were really helpful in providing me the information and resources to help fight this. With their help, I’ve become a housing specialist.
But in the end it’s just not enough. The odds are stacked against renters in our state.
I now understand how easy it can be for families to become displaced and homeless. My family is now on the edge, just praying for the best. I see it every day in St. Johns – a community that I’ve known most of my life has never had families living on the streets like they do now.
Too many families are being taken advantage of simply because they are renters. Everyone deserves a stable home and shouldn’t have to live in fear of excessive rent hikes or being thrown out of our homes without reason or without recourse just because we’re renters. This is why I am sharing my story! This has to stop!