The state of Oregon today released new numbers that show a dramatic increase in homelessness across the state. “The number of people in Oregon identified as homeless increased 37 percent from the same time last year, according to the statewide One-Night Homeless Count,” reports Oregon Housing and Community Services, the state agency that coordinates homeless programs.
This disaster was preventable had the federal government during the last eight years done more to build affordable housing and to support programs that prevent homelessness. Instead, the Bush Administration pursued economic policies that benefited the wealthy at the expense of those Jesus would have called the “least of these” and the predictable result is increased poverty and homelessness. Rather than challenge these policies Governor Kulongoski did little during his first term to address homelessness and in his second term created a Bush-driven policy council which has written a ten year plan to end homelessness.
But the plan will fail. It offers no real solutions - only baby steps that will help a few but leave many behind. Homelessness will only end when poverty is eradicated. The solution to ending homelessness will also require universal health care and universal mental health treatment. The governor’s ten-year plan to end homelessness will be soon forgotten and unless our elected officials show true courage to fight the systemic causes of poverty and homelessness there will be more people living on the streets and in shelters a decade from now than there are today. That solution will require tax reform and a national strategy to end poverty on both a state and national level. What is required now are bold leaders and bold solutions.
To have so many people homeless in Oregon is nothing more than a sin.