Portland Issues & Solutions
So many issues face us. Steven can tackle them and make our community a safe and beautiful place we can be proud of.
Homelessness & Revitalizing Portland
Homelessness is clearly the issue that will define many cities in the years and decades ahead. To understand how we have come to be where we are, an honest assessment of the problems is necessary. Only then can we see the best path forward.
Does Portland face a homelessness problem or an addiction problem? The answer is yes. Homelessness, addiction, and mental illness are such intertwined issues that fixing just one is virtually impossible without simultaneously working on the others.
So, how have we gotten to where we are? Of course, there are many factors. Ever-increasing housing prices coupled with stagnant wage growth certainly hasn’t helped. Although these economic factors have contributed, they don’t get to the heart of the problem.
In the 1980’s we decimated our mental health infrastructure while simultaneously ramping up the so-called war on drugs. People with drug addiction or mental health issues were jailed, sometimes for decades. All the while, the public got stuck with an ever-increasing bill for the largest mass incarceration complex in the history of the world. These inhumane policies ruined countless lives. Thankfully, we are slowly but surely winding down the insane drug policies that got us here.
However, I’m afraid we may have learned the wrong lessons. Indeed, you can’t arrest your way out of a drug epidemic, but it is also true that you can’t just allow the drug-addicted to take over your city, as it is equally as expensive and dysfunctional as the war on drugs.
Not only do we lose access to our city streets and parks, but homeless people put a tremendous strain on city budgets and emergency services. Worst of all, these lives that we as a society have decided not to help are wasted. We need to get these people off the streets and get them the medical care they need. It is not the case that dying in your filth on the streets in need of medical attention is somehow a more dignified existence than losing years of your life stuck in a jail cell still not getting the medical attention you need.
To accomplish this, one needs both a carrot and a stick. Not all people with mental health issues are eager to take the medication they need. Not all of the addicted are motivated to get sober. That is where one must use the stick. We aren’t talking about putting people in jail for years at a time, as that is both ineffective and cruel. Rather, we are talking about relatively short stays (months, not years) to start their treatment while in custody.
We need shelters with enough beds to accommodate every homeless person in the city. These shelters should act as halfway houses, where people can get whatever medical treatment and counseling they may need.
The only way this can be successful is if the shelter managers, law enforcement, and case managers work hand in hand.
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