Referencing Rick Bowers' letter of March 6, there are two kinds of homelessness — economic and chronic.
Economic homelessness can be solved by additional housing stock, but that housing stock has to be affordable. When housing is scarce, as it is in Astoria, affordable housing can only be created by changes in zoning that permit greater density, and economic incentives to builders to charge affordable rents.
Affordable is a technical term defined by the federal government, but it often means housing at below-market rates. A number of at-market multiunit apartment complexes have been developed recently in both Astoria and Warrenton, but all of the units are priced beyond affordable.
The recent study done by the Clatsop County commission made it clear that the only practical locations for development of affordable housing are in the Warrenton area, but zoning changes and builder incentives are required to get that housing built.
Chronic homelessness is a more complicated issue than economic homelessness. Each individual who is chronically homeless requires a solution built around that person's unique circumstances. Most often, mental health issues are the primary source of an individual's chronic homelessness. Occasionally, chronic homelessness is simply a person's rational choice, but that is rare.
In Astoria, there is a general consensus among those most actively involved in addressing chronic homelessness that the most effective first step for this community is a drop-in center, where trust can be built and basic services and supplies provided. Creating that drop-in center is where our efforts should be focused.
BARRY L. PLOTKIN