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How to Handle Homelessness

Everyone knows that rampant homelessness is a huge issue in the Portland area. But what people don’t know is that there is a solution available that Clackamas County can use immediately to help solve it.

The current Clackamas County Board of Commissioners is blaming the area’s growing homelessness on budget cuts. This is, unfortunately, just an attempt to hold taxpayers’ wallets hostage and avoid responsibility for their own blatant, irresponsible mismanagement of county resources.

Funds are already available to bolster programs that are proven to work effectively to address the root causes of homelessness and keep people off the streets. The best part is, this can be done without further burdening county residents with more unnecessary taxes.

As part of criminal justice reform efforts, the Legislature has placed more of an emphasis on community corrections programs. The idea is to keep non-violent offenders from ending up in prison.

 An alternative to incarceration, community corrections programs keep those offenders in the community, so they can keep working, paying taxes, being with their families and contributing to society. Community corrections also offers structure and programs that helps offenders to change their behaviors and has accountability measures to keep them from committing more crimes.

There is a surplus of money at the state level for community corrections programs of around $2.5 billion. This represents a golden opportunity for Clackamas County to deal with homelessness in an effective, yet compassionate, manner.

Homeless who are contacted by law enforcement could be helped through the community corrections system. The cause of their individual homelessness can be determined through that process. If it’s mental illness, it can be diagnosed so treatment can be sought. If it’s addiction, they can be referred to programs to get them clean and keep them that way. Some people become homeless due to job loss. Luckily, there are employment opportunities that can be made available to them through these programs.

These are all evidence-based programs that have been proven to work and utilize existing funding streams.

By contrast, the current Clackamas County Board of Commissioners is supporting Metro’s new income tax for the homeless this May primary election.

While sounding altruistic, this is the fourth Metro tax in 18 months and this regional agency has no experience whatsoever in curing the big three causes of homelessness: Addiction, Mental Health and Joblessness. Chair Jim Bernard is abdicating leadership of Clackamas County to Portland by supporting another tax on the backs of our citizens.

Compare how the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office is already addressing the homeless crisis with the programs just mentioned. Instead of taxing citizens to fund Metro with its unproven experience, let’s support out own efforts by prioritizing spending and services, I plan to address this problem effectively as the next chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.