Gubernatorial candidates weigh in on homeless crisis

PORTLAND, Or. – Ahead of the midterm election, the homelessness crisis is a key issue on the minds of Oregon voters.

All three candidates for governor have different approaches to how they would handle the problem if elected.

For Democratic candidate Tina Kotek, the focus is where to start.

“You got to start somewhere and focus on communities where there are resources,” Kotek said. “So, we have resources to help our veterans. We need to see progress. So, I believe we can make progress in the first six months, in the first year to help more people get into housing… I think the city has taken the right approach of restricting certain areas, for safety and health reasons, where people should not be camping outside. Until we have enough shelter space, there will have to be some folks outside.”

While Kotek is immediately focusing on short-term results, Republican candidate Christine Drazen is taking a different approach.

“The approach to homelessness I think needs to be an approach that is long-term,” Drazen said. “There are no magic bullets to, in some cases, the human condition. And we have programming right now within the metro area that local jurisdictions have adopted that I’m really strongly supportive of, and that program right now is called Built for Zero. The concept behind this, it really is that they are able to better understand who is on their streets, and better understand what services and support they need to transition from being houseless to being fully stabilized and able to contribute to their own lives and best future again.”

Unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson says plans are great, but it’s nothing compared to actual action.

“Well, it’s not what will I do, it’s what am I doing?” Johnson said. “I have never subscribed to having meetings or drawing up five-year plans. I have actually been doing it. I was a part of a group of people who helped repurpose the abandoned Wapato Jail, built at huge public expense… Drugs are at the root of every urban ill as I see it. They’re exacerbating mental illness, certainly the open market drug trafficking that is going on in town. Let’s recognize that those addiction facilities need to be spread across the state.”

All three gubernatorial candidates have been outspoken on why they would be the best option to tackle this critical problem facing the state.

“I understand how to solve the problem, I have a plan,” Kotek said. “I’m not about the politics, this is about serving people. It is unsafe for people to be on the streets. And if you’re living right next to someone in a tent, also unsafe for you. None of us want this. I am committed, it is about solving this problem, and I have the experience, and frankly, the toughness to get this done.”

“We’re doing it, we’re not talking about it, we’re not waiting until housing units are built,” Johnson said. “We are taking people off the streets and putting them in a setting where they can achieve and maintain their own sobriety, with the dignity of work, and the investment of their own futures.”

“You know, I am the only candidate in this race that has not been a part of the problem for the last ten, twenty years that has gotten us here,” Drazen said.

For an in-depth look at each candidate’s thoughts, visit KGW’s website for individual stories with Tina Kotek, Christine Drazen, and Betsy Johnson.

Ethan McReynolds is a reporter and weekend anchor for NBC5 News. He grew up in Bothell, Washington and graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Broadcasting and minors in Journalism and Sport Management. At Gonzaga, he started his own sports podcast. Ethan loves rooting for his hometown Seattle sports teams, especially the Mariners. He loves playing baseball, basketball, and soccer. He is also an avid Taylor Swift fan.
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