Works and Days


"public policy"

Ending Homelessness, Reed Winter Externship Program, Savanah Walseth

Sophomore psychology major Savanah Walseth participated in a Reed winter externship at the Multnomah County Commissioner’s office, assisting with public policy work regarding homelessness

For most of January, I had the opportunity to extern at Commissioner Bailey's Office in Multnomah County doing public policy work related to housing and homelessness. Christine Lewis (an awesome former Reedie!) was my supervisor, but overall I got a lot of independence to go to meetings, conduct research and explore housing policy issues facing our county. 

Multnomah County is attempting to reduce their population of people experiencing homelessness by 50% in the next two years. By July 1st of this year, they are attempting to place 430 individuals in permanent supportive housing with all of the essentials a person needs to sustain their housing long-term. It is an exciting time. To go about this endeavor, Multnomah County meets with social service providers, government officials, community members and individuals currently and formerly experiencing homelessness to conduct a plan of action. I had the opportunity to sit in meetings with on-the-ground direct service providers, executive directors, policy-makers, commissioners and even Mayor Hales. Everyone I spoke to really cared about the issue of ending homelessness and were willing to put aside any differences to get the job done. One of the best parts was being part of conversations that were not only seeking to end homelessness, but prevent it. Everyone was willing to look at deep-rooted issues such as our education system, healthcare, criminal justice, foster care, the VA and more to better piece together the complexities that cause homelessness. There was also a lot of talk about what it took to help a person sustain their housing. We discussed strategies to work as a community to help individuals get employment, life-sustaining activities and better support members. Multnomah County not only wants housing for every individual, they also want a better life for every individual.

Multnomah County Commission, Reed Winter Externship, Sarah Canavan

Sarah Canavan, sophomore economics major, participated in the Reed winter externship program, working with Reed alumna, Christine Lewis '07, policy director for one of the Multnomah County Commissioners.

            I returned from a trip home to Texas for the holidays just a day before my externship with Christine Lewis at Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey’s office. After my first semester at Reed, my trip home allowed me to reconnect with my family, my home and my past, and I was able to return to Portland and begin my externship with a renewed sense of self and purpose. I sat down with Christine to discuss the goals of my week stint as an intern at the Multnomah County office. We discussed my initial questions and planned which meetings I would attend and how I could learn more about data and research methods that play a part in the policy design at the office. After some discussion, we decided that I would shadow Christine and others at the office in their roles at the office and help do some thorough research into proposed levee reevaluation. 

            I’ve been a resident of Portland for five years and since living here have been marginally involved in local politics (voting in local elections, primarily) and my experience as a daily bicycle commuter has led me to participate in several bicycle and transportation advocacy groups or events (Shift2bikes, Oregon Walks, etc…) My academic and career interests lie in public policy design and analysis but I had never really seen what the working environment in this field would actually look like. What I got out of my externship was the opportunity to see county level policy being shaped, in fact, I really felt like I was seeing democracy in action. The process is an amalgam of inspiration, empowerment and frustration. The flavor of board meetings was similar to the Socratic method of Reed conference classes but with the meticulous minute taking of a senate meeting. I went to four board meetings; Home for Everyone Coordinating Council, Board of County Commissioners Meeting, Local Public Safety Coordinating Council and Oregon Solutions Levee Meeting. Going into detail about the different meetings and my observations from my time at the office could take a long time, so I think I’ll share some of my most interesting observations.