MEDFORD, Ore. – An event Saturday (2/3/2024) in Ashland saw several speakers talk about the homelessness issue in Oregon and strategies to come up with a solution.
Oregon Representative for District 5, Pam Marsh said,
“If we invest with the right services and we assume that it’s going to take some time, we can absolutely turn the tide of homelessness.”
She was one of the speakers at the Southern Oregon Homelessness Summit event at the Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites. The event featured different people from different agencies, all offering their perspectives on the homelessness issue and many of the speakers at today’s event share that while homelessness is a multi-faceted issue that has a lot of different layers to it, one of the main driving factors; at its core, is a lack of housing.
Dennis Slattery, the president of the Board of OHRA, said that efforts should be focused on housing options and adequate employment where people can sustain their housing,
“As long as we don’t have enough housing to accommodate all the people, you’re going to have homelessness. Those are the primary drivers; we still have mental health issues, and we have people working on that, we have addiction issues.”
And while other agencies and organizations tackle those other issues, speakers say that having a focus on housing yielded positive results. Bryan Guiney is the Field Office Director for Oregon, with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD. HUD released the Annual Homeless Assessment Report for 2022 to 2023, which showed the state of Oregon saw a 12% increase in homelessness. But, during the same time in the Rogue Valley, it went down 8%.
“It’s working and it’s countering this narrative that ‘oh if we build it, they will come.” If you’re building housing supports here in the Rogue Valley, we’re seeing a decrease in the numbers of homelessness and we don’t want to take our foot off the gas.”
Many speakers are advocating for shelters, new permanent supportive housing units and more. And event organizers of the summit said encourage people to involve themselves in those efforts, in any way they can.
Event producer Jordan Pease,
“We’re really hoping to inspire community members who have concern and compassion for homeless, people affected by homelessness… To find a way to plug in… To be a part of a solution.”
Speakers say this can be as simple as donating to a housing non-profit or even volunteering at a shelter.
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