Published 01 Sep 2023

The Homeless Issue in Portland vs. Clackamas County: A Comparative Insight

A pathetic homeless man begged the house on the sidewalk cm

By ‘Clackamas Strong’

Portland is becoming increasingly known for a rampant homelessness crisis that’s worsened by a series of unforced policy missteps. While the city has certainly made attempts to alleviate the issue, the outcomes speak volumes about their efficacy. In contrast, Clackamas County is emerging as a success story, demonstrating the potential of well-crafted, proactive policies.

Portland’s ‘harm reduction’ strategies have inadvertently escalated the very issues they sought to mitigate. Distributing drug paraphernalia, for instance, may have been executed with good intentions, but its real-world impact has been a spike in drug use and related challenges. Policies allowing street camping have transformed parts of Portland into makeshift tent cities, causing health, safety, and quality of life concerns for both its homeless residents and the broader community.

Adding fuel to the fire is Oregon’s Measure 110. While decriminalization of certain drugs might sound progressive on paper, in practice, coupled with an insufficient mental health support and incentivized rehabilitation services Portland’s reluctance to prosecute crimes, it has created an environment where many perceive a lack of accountability. This combination has emboldened many to act with impunity, intensifying the city’s challenges and straining its resources.

Portland’s seemingly only response is… Rinse and repeat.

Contrastingly, Clackamas Strong expressly supports Clackamas County as it appears to be building its strategy around four solution-focused pillars that address the root causes of homelessness and drug addiction:

  1. Prevention: Proactively engaging potential at-risk individuals with counseling, financial assistance, and job placement services long before they’re on the precipice of homelessness.
  2. Holistic Support: Avoiding the catastrophic failures of ‘harm reduction’ policies and acknowledging the intricate relationship between homelessness and drug addiction. Clackamas offers a blend of rehab, mental health, and addiction treatment services.
  3. Affordable Housing: Partnering with developers, nonprofits, and community organizations to lower the cost of building and expand access to affordable housing.
  4. Community Engagement: ‘Clackamas Strong’ champions the ‘Blue Ribbon’ commission idea and it’s implication that true transformation arises from community-driven initiatives, allowing for compassionate, effective solutions to emerge.

The strides, so far, made by Clackamas County underscore that tackling homelessness and drug addiction requires comprehensive, community-centric solutions. Portland’s struggles, in contrast, serve as a lesson in how politically motivated piecemeal policies that refuse to address core causes, however well intended, will exacerbate the problems they aim to solve.

As representatives of ‘Clackamas Strong,’ we express our concerns and aspirations for the region. We implore our leaders to steadfastly uphold their ‘Commitment to Clackamas,’ striving for a county defined by stability, prosperity, and compassion.

To Portland and other communities grappling with similar challenges, we extend our insights and collaborative spirit. By examining missteps, adopting best practices from places like Clackamas, and acting cohesively, we can steer towards a more promising horizon.

In commitment to our community’s well-being, ‘Clackamas Strong’ stands ready to contribute to meaningful, long-lasting change. We welcome all to partake in this transformative journey.