As part of the Editorial Board approval process, we asked candidates for the position of City of Portland Commissioner, Pos. 3 for answering multiple questions in 200 words or less. Their responses guided our decisions on which candidates to interview. Here are the responses from the three candidates we spoke with. To read our endorsement of René Gonzalez in this race, go to this link. To see all our mentions, go to oregonlive.com/opinion.
Question: The county and city have spent hundreds of millions over the past few years on homelessness, but the situation seems to have only gotten worse. Why haven’t we seen more progress? What are the main obstacles to progress and what specific solutions would you suggest? Please indicate if you would change the current mix of investments between permanent housing and emergency shelter and if you would support requiring homeless people to move to shelter if there is enough space.
René Gonzalez, tech company owner: Our policy approach to homelessness has been guided by a ‘housing first’ ideology to disastrous ends. We may never have enough permanent housing to meet the needs of homeless people. The continuation of this policy, amid the pandemic no less, has directly contributed to the proliferation of unauthorized camps across the city and exacerbated the deterioration of living conditions for those living in and around them. This reflects an approach to policy-making deeply driven by ideological commitments – an approach that often continues to insist that there is no crisis, that this is what systemic change looks like. and that the emperor is in fact fully clothed.
I do not share the view that investment in permanent housing should crowd out investment in housing. The facts are clear: nearly 80% of people without accommodation have at least one disability (substance abuse 46%; mental illness 41%; both: 26%).
Path to follow: We need to massively accelerate the building of safe shelters and sleeping options where we can also focus addiction, mental health and other services. We also need to set up a functioning acute drug treatment center in the city as soon as possible, which caters to those who are on the borderline between seeking treatment and criminal behavior.
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty
Indeed, we have made major new investments, and we have thus tripled the number of shelter beds. The crisis on our streets is real and has been compounded by the pandemic that has disproportionately affected low-wage workers and a housing market that has failed to produce homes in the 0-60% of median income that is currently $96,900 for a family of four. .
Vadim Mozyrsky, administrative law judge
Portlanders have shown great compassion by individually helping people in need in their neighborhood, supporting charities and nonprofits, and paying higher taxes for homeless services. Yet we are not seeing the promised results. First, there is no comprehensive plan with goals, measures and accountability measures to quickly address this humanitarian crisis. Instead, we have disparate frameworks between metro, local counties, city, and service provider organizations that rarely align. Second, we lack transparency and good oversight. We need to focus funding on programs that work. Third, our outreach efforts are failing to connect homeless people spread across Portland to needed services.
The results are all too evident: a record number of deaths in the homeless community, inhumane living conditions and a detrimental impact on neighborhoods. To balance the needs of our homeless people with those of the neighborhoods they live in, we must have a unified regional plan that prioritizes programs that provide stability for homeless people with concrete goals and functional oversight. It is important to note that we must provide designated temporary accommodation space and encourage people to move to shelters, not only for a warm bed and hot meals, but to have daily and coordinated access to medical services, addictions, mental health and housing.
Editorials reflect the collective opinion of The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board, which operates independently of the newsroom. Members of the editorial board are Therese Bottomly, Laura Gunderson, Helen Jung and John Maher.
Board members meet regularly to determine our institutional position on current issues. We publish editorials when we believe our unique perspective can provide clarity and influence an upcoming decision of great public interest. Editorials are opinion pieces and therefore different from news articles.