PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – With Governor Kate Brown’s term coming to a close, Oregon’s three-leading gubernatorial candidates have shared their plans to solve the homeless crisis in the state.
While Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson say there is no simple solution, each has ideas on how to get started helping the thousands of people living on the streets across the state.
“If you see on my plan, that’s on my website, talks about focusing on particular populations. First, veterans, parents with kids, young people who have come out of foster care, we know who they are, right? Our seniors, we have too many seniors who are living on the street. So, let’s make progress. Right away, we have resources, so, having those targeted outreach teams working with individuals on the street, getting them connected to services, getting them into housing,” Kotek explained. “I want to see a lot more of project turnkey — converting motels into shelters.”
Meanwhile, Drazan states “when it comes to serving the needs of folks that are facing behavioral health challenges, mental health challenges, the state needs to support that workforce, we need to get more people into those fields, we need to improve reimbursement rates so people choose those fields and then they can sustain their businesses to provide those supports.”
“There is no sense of urgency, there appears to be plenty of money, there appears to be a proliferation of not-for-profits,” Johnson said. “Everybody thinks somebody else is responsible. If I were governor, the day after the election, I would convene social service, behavioral health people, addiction, law enforcement and get specific accountable actions.”
Overall, the three candidates say they would declare a homeless emergency statewide to free up dollars and make it easier to locate shelters.
The candidates also shared their ideas on providing more organized camping locations.
“I think just having a big space where you put a thousand people won’t work,” Kotek said. “Because people won’t do it, they won’t feel safe, they won’t stay engaged. If the goal is to have the one-on-one work with individuals to get them into housing, throwing them into a big space is not going to work.”
However, she adds “that being said, I support multiple options – traditional shelters, villages, what they’re doing at Bybee Lake – all of these things have to be both supported and improved upon.”
“We know that the majority of people that are houseless living on our streets unsheltered in fact do have challenges with addiction,” Drazan explained. “No matter what got you to that point, where you’re living unsheltered, to be able to navigate that, to be able to live through that experience a lot of people are self-medicating at this point. We have got to recognize that this isn’t just as simple as giving someone a key to a tiny house and hoping for the best, but the trauma and experience in that way is going to require support and the state is the right one to provide that support.”
Johnson said “rather than having a massive facility, I would probably lean more towards smaller. You have to have enforcement; you’d have to have the ability to, I’m going to use the word ‘police’ a facility wherever it is, in order to not have chaos in a large…multi-thousand-person encampment.”
KOIN 6 News asked the three candidates for one-on-one interviews over the past couple of months for this report but had to rely on Christine Drazan’s recent interview on KOIN 6 News’ Eye on Northwest Politics for an interview.
Oregon voters have until Election Day, Nov. 8, to return ballots to drop boxes or county election offices by 8 p.m. Voters in Oregon and Washington can mail in ballots as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 8.
So far, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, 20% of ballots have been returned.