Gubernatorial candidate Jessica Gomez says she has a plan to address the issue

In order to solve a problem, it is first necessary to honestly evaluate what's causing it.

Oregon's political leadership has spent several decades creating the conditions that today cause homelessness and housing insecurity. They have failed all of us by increasing the cost of housing through higher property taxes, creating system development charges limiting where new housing can be built, and instituting onerous — and expensive — building regulations.

This not only impacts Oregonians who may be on the cusp of affording housing, but also creates unneeded stress on our senior population. If these misguided public policies persist, developing affordable housing for all Oregonians is not possible.Gomez

Even worse, Oregon has failed to develop a system to solve these problems our leaders have created.

While much lip service is paid to a lack of affordable housing, a permanent place to live for those on the streets is the last step, not the first. We may as well be honest: while some on our streets may want to live free of society's encumbrances, most are addicted to alcohol, or addicted to drugs, or have problems with their mental health or all of the above. There is no evidence that providing housing for these groups without taking other actions to heal their addiction or mental illness will lead to a long-term solution to their ability to remain housed. 

 Over the course of this campaign, I have met and talked with experts on these issues, including advocates for the unhoused, law enforcement, behavioral health experts and many others. These advocates are working hard on important outreach programs that can deal with any immediate needs for a person in crisis — perhaps providing warm clothing or helping visit a laundromat to dry out a wet sleeping bag. Eventually, relationships can be developed that lead to drug or alcohol treatment or perhaps a diagnosis of a mental health issue.

But these advocates all face a problem — Oregon has done a poor job of ensuring those who want to beat an addiction or improve their mental health have access to a program to help them. In fact, KGW-TV in Portland recently cited federal statistics showing that, although Oregon has some of the highest levels of addiction to drugs and alcohol in the nation, it ranks near the bottom in available programs to help people get clean and sober. 

As Oregon's next governor, I am committed to implementing a comprehensive strategy to assist our homeless population and to address housing insecurity issues. I will work to develop an "assisted living" model for the unhoused, such as that used for our senior population.

Secondly, I will work with cities and counties to coordinate and to reallocate already available public dollars to establish behavioral health teams within law enforcement agencies, and to develop additional treatment programs, and then ensure the unsheltered who need treatment will be placed in long-term rehabilitation programs.

Once we provide these treatment options, I will support outlawing camping on the streets and in parks and other public spaces. Finally, I will work to lower the cost on the private sector of building new, affordable housing. 

For too many decades, Oregon's political leadership has failed to address these problems. As your governor, I'll provide real solutions to these all too real problems.

Jessica Gomez, who experienced homelessness as a teenager in the early 1990s, is the founder and CEO of a high-tech company in Medford, and a Republican candidate for governor.

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