State Rep. Knute Buehler, the Republican nominee for governor, has announced a seven-point plan to end unsheltered homelessness by 2023.
Nearly 14,000 people are considered homeless in Oregon, an increase of 6 percent between 2015 and 2017, according to a survey in January 2017 by Oregon Housing and Community Services. Clatsop County was among the top five counties in the state for homelessness.
“Under Kate Brown, our homeless crisis is getting worse,” Buehler said Monday. “It’s become a humanitarian, public health and public safety crisis that needs bolder and more creative leadership from a new governor,”
One proposal in the plan calls for building 4,000 temporary shelter beds and 4,000 long-term supportive housing beds. He has proposed paying for the project with a combination of $10 million in state funds and federal, local, nonprofit and private resources.
State grants would be made to local governments and nonprofit and private partners to build and manage the beds and programs.
Buehler did not give an estimate on the total cost of the project.
Gov. Brown’s campaign said Buehler’s plan “doesn’t add up.”
“Building 8,000 shelter beds will cost 10 times the $10 million he’s proposing to spend,” said Christian Gaston, a spokesman for the Democrat’s campaign. “If half of those are supportive housing units, the price tag will climb higher. This isn’t a serious proposal.”
Buehler’s seven-point plan includes the following:
• Convene a statewide summit on solving homelessness and create a position of a state-level chief homeless solutions officer. The homeless solutions officer would be authorized to lead efforts to align state, federal, local, nonprofit and private sector policies and resources toward common priorities and goals.
• Dedicate state Medicaid dollars for both physical and mental health care to community-based, street-level clinics for homeless populations. Seek state legislation and changes to Oregon’s federal Medicaid agreement to allow the program.
• Allocate $10 million in the 2019-20 state budget, combined with community-based resources, to create an additional 4,000 temporary emergency shelter beds and 4,000 long-term supportive-housing beds to move people from streets and camps to shelters with access to transition services and longer-term treatment.
• Provide local governments stronger legal tools to manage and regulate activity on streets and sidewalks. Introduce legislation modeled after House Bill 2963 from 2013 to help clarify the state law giving local jurisdictions the right to more strictly regulate street and sidewalk activity.
• Establish the Oregon Workplace Housing Assistance Fund, a $50 million, five-year fund to provide up to three years of rental assistance to working families.
• Address Oregon’s housing supply shortage and affordability crisis. An example is to remove barriers to developing more multifamily apartments, innovative modular and tiny homes and communal neighborhood arrangements.
• Establish a Governor’s Council on Re-entry Employment where employers and nonprofits can coordinate efforts to teach life and workplace skills and train and employ formerly homeless people. Direct Regional Solutions Centers to work with trade unions and industry to connect transitional homeless to intensive job training programs that lead to career and technical education apprenticeships.
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