Too often, when we are talking about the homelessness crisis, it is as if it is one issue—it isn’t. There are multiple facets and diverse concerns that are all getting encapsulated under the one word, “homelessness.” Top among these are housing/shelter; mental health services, substance use treatment and other social supports; and jobs and incomes. Eugene’s response to the homelessness crisis has been diffuse. Despite the fact that it is a top city priority, we persist in looking for band-aid solutions, and fail to invest in addressing root causes.
Confronting homelessness and helping those who are unhoused achieve stable housing is one of the greatest moral imperatives facing the City and our society right now. We need to:
- Create a new department of community service. When it comes to addressing the causes that make it difficult for residents to maintain stable housing, Eugene has effectively decided that it will follow and let other entities take the lead. While the State and County have large roles in providing social services and public health to our community, as the largest city in the region, Eugene needs to be taking a much more proactive role in ensuring that we are creating just and effective support for everyone in our community. We can’t continue to have our response to homelessness exist in the fringes of the City’s structure. Our structures and budget need to reflect that this is just as much the City’s job as providing roads and libraries is. I will advocate for structures and funding that closely match our urgent priorities as a City.
- Provide more immediate safe shelter, and address our City’s housing crisis. It will take time to reform how we provide long-term housing in our city, and so in the meantime, we need to provide safe shelter, including actually creating the public shelter we set aside funding for in 2017, and expanding programs such as the car camping programs. This will help the immediate suffering that our unhoused community members experience, but it is not, on its own, a solution. At the same time, we need to be removing barriers to creating permanent affordable housing and addressing our critical housing shortage so that more people in our community have housing options other than temporary shelters. I will support the expansion of safe shelter programs and long-term housing solutions.