Republican Knute Buehler, who is running for governor against Democrat Kate Brown, came out with his seven-point plan to end unsheltered homelessness recently.
As one part of the plan he would give the governor’s office a major role in dealing with homelessness, and he would create a $10 million grant program to help build 8,000 shelter and supported housing beds around the state. Supported (or supportive) housing comes with such things as mental health and addiction services readily available for those who need them.
Brown argues that $10 million isn’t enough to get the building job done; she’ll ask the Legislature to allow the state to sell $22 million in bonds to address the same problem.
Kudos to both candidates. They recognize that, according to the statistics portal website statista.com and others, Oregon is among the five states with highest number of unsheltered homeless people, those who camp along irrigation ditches or down forest roads. Their troubles often, but not always, stem from either mental health or addiction problems, and supported housing begins to address the issue.
But not everyone in Oregon who is homeless is living in a tent. Some of those at Bethlehem Inn, for example, are homeless because a landlord raised the rent or a medical crisis took a chunk out of family resources. Or, a job that might have paid for a small apartment 10 years ago is no longer up to the task.
They need housing, too, and some need subsidized housing, something both candidates would seek additional funds for. Again, it’s a good idea, though an economy with higher paying jobs should also be part of the plan.
Oregon’s housing prices are high and getting higher by the month. According to the Inc. magazine website, only five states are seeing housing prices rise at a faster clip. Part of the problem is the lack of inexpensive land available near our cities. That can be traced back directly to land-use laws that strive to keep cities compact in the face of a population that still dreams of a home without a house cheek by jowl next door.
In the end, both candidates seek to address homelessness with lots of money and some services. Their plans, if they can actually find money for them, would improve the situation for the unsheltered homeless, though it wouldn’t do as much for those still struggling to keep a roof over their heads. It’s a start, but that’s all.