Homelessness is the biggest challenge in local government today. There are many causes, but chief among them is a national opiate and methamphetamine abuse epidemic. There are 4 million needles distributed each year at Multnomah County needle exchanges. That’s over five needles for each person in Multnomah County distributed each year. Further, there are 3.2 million opiate prescriptions issued in Oregon each year. That is 92 opiate prescriptions for every 100 residents in the state.
While most of the Portland region has turned a blind eye to this issue, Gresham has never wavered in our unambiguous duty to protect our neighborhoods and our families. As your Mayor, I will always lead with compassion, but I will never turn my back on our fundamental duty to protect our families, neighborhoods, and community livability.
Mental health issues are also strong contributing factors. Between 1955 and 2005, the State of Oregon reduced the number of public psychiatric hospital beds from nearly 300 per 100,000 residents to under 20 beds per 100,000 residents today. That is a 93.3% decrease in public mental health investment. I will always fight to get our partners in the state and federal government to do their part on this issue as well.
What We’ve Done:
- Created the “Clean Start” program, which pays previously homeless individuals to clean up vacated homeless camps, tidy up our parks, trails, and rights-of-way, and protect Gresham’s livability.
- Launched a regular police patrol on the Springwater Trail to protect it for recreational use, when Portland completely abandoned their stretch of the alignment.
- Hired the City’s first ever homeless services specialist, who has helped hundreds of homeless people get new ID cards and access services to get them off the streets.
- Toughened the City’s parks exclusions code to help trespass people who commit crimes and break the rules in Gresham’s parks.
- Passed new City Codes and held the line firmly against illegal camping, both in public spaces, and dilapidated RV’s parked in the right-of-way.
- Closed down sensitive natural areas adjacent to our neighborhoods to let the environment heal and protect livability.
- Chartered the Citizen Volunteer Corps, a group of people receiving treatment in Gresham, who are on the front end of rehabilitation, giving them a vocational training opportunity, a daily stipend, and a chance to feel good about giving back to the community.