Oregon has a homelessness crisis. Nearly 16,000 people are experiencing homelessness every day. And despite state and local governments spending hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, the crisis has only gotten worse. What we’re doing isn’t working. There is nothing compassionate about letting our neighbors live in dangerous conditions outdoors, surrounded by trash, needles and human waste. We cannot go on like this. Parents must feel safe letting their kids walk to school and play in parks, and small business owners must be able to open their doors and welcome customers free from harassment and vandalism. As Governor, I will respond with the urgency and much needed accountability that has been missing from this crisis.
While getting people safely off the streets is an immediate priority, we must address the long-term causes of homelessness. Homelessness disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous and other people of color, women fleeing domestic violence, veterans, LGBTQIA2S+ youth, and those with chronic health conditions. One of the key drivers is Oregon’s severe shortage of affordable housing, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and its long-term economic consequences. We know what it takes to get in front of this crisis: preventing evictions for those who are at risk of homelessness, housing those who are currently homeless, and delivering the health services - especially mental and addiction services - to those who need it.
And this is not just a Portland problem. Communities across Oregon are facing rising homelessness. This crisis requires a coordinated, statewide response and the next governor must lead this effort.
As governor, I will answer the call from mayors across the state and take immediate steps to keep people housed who are at risk of homelessness, make it easier to build long-term affordable housing, deliver health services to those who need it, and clean up our public spaces with better sanitation. Ultimately, when adequate housing and shelter options are available for those who are willing to accept help, it will be time to start enforcing camping bans in our parks and on our streets.
Housing All Who Need It.
- Creating a mix of shelter and transitional housing: Our first priority must be getting the homeless into safe, clean shelters and transitional housing where they can access mental health, addiction and job services. Now. Not years from now. As Governor, I will work to create housing for every homeless Oregonian by pulling together state and local housing officials to make real progress. I will work to eliminate bureaucratic delays and ensure that state spending is being used to address our most urgent needs first: expanding existing shelters and transitional housing; repurposing vacant motels, hotels and office space; and staffing those sites with the support services needed to help those experiencing homelessness find stability and long-term housing.
Creating Stable and Affordable Housing.
- Keeping people housed through eviction prevention: While the eviction moratorium has been important to keep people in their homes during the pandemic we need to expand additional tools including rental and utility assistance, social workers who can connect renters to community resources, and mediators to assist renters and landlords working through conflicts outside of court. The failure of state government to deliver rent relief checks to those facing eviction has only exacerbated the problem, and requires accountability and reform.
- Support for homeless youth: Many young people who are homeless are former foster youth, LGBTQIA2S+, or youth who have been involved in the criminal justice system. We must support young people through age-appropriate housing and health services, and offer help accessing educational and vocational programs by waiving fees for birth certificate applications, college applications, and drivers licenses and allowing minors to consent to their own housing applications
- Make it easier and cheaper to build affordable housing: Oregon is suffering from an acute shortage of housing and we need to rapidly scale up affordable housing. That means streamlining the building permit process, partnering with the private sector to create statewide access to low-interest loans to build additional housing on single-family lots, and aligning urban infrastructure investments with local commitments to density.
Expand health & job services.
- One-to-One Support: In partnership with local communities, we will invest in new case workers and community liaisons who can connect the homeless to needed mental health, addiction and job services.
- New Emergency Response: We will scale up successful programs like Cahoots in Eugene and Portland Street Response to get trained mental health care professionals to people in crisis for both emergency and non-emergency calls. We also must invest in training programs so that our first responders are equipped to provide the appropriate support to people in need and avoid the use of force.
- Address Opioid Use: Opioid use was plaguing Oregon before the pandemic, and has only gotten worse. Oregon ranks second to last in rates of addiction and dead last in access to addiction services. We need urgent action to reduce the over-prescription of opioids for pain management: stronger penalties for those illegally manufacturing, trafficking, and selling opioids. We need to work with the medical community and state partners to promote alternate pain management strategies, prescription monitoring programs, safe storage and disposal of prescriptions, and training for medical professionals to identify misuse early. We must create a statewide opioid response plan and make effective and affordable emergency treatments for overdoses, like Naloxone, available to first responders across our state. Finally, we will seek civil liability for opioid manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors who have unjustly profited from this crisis.
Cleaning up our public spaces.
- Safety for all: From assaults to illegal drug use, the conditions in and around homeless encampments are inhumane and unsafe. Moving the homeless into safe and clean shelters and transitional housing will make them and surrounding residents and workers safer.
- Sanitation: In order for our social service providers and first-responders to provide assistance and for all of us to enjoy our parks and public spaces, we must provide necessary sanitation services. We will work with local jurisdictions to provide additional garbage pick up as well as showers and other sanitation options regularly, including through mobile sanitation units and portable restrooms.
- Prohibiting camping on freeway right-of-way: We will also require ODOT to set and enforce policies prohibiting camping on freeway right of way, which has become a major public safety issue for everyone.