Sharia Mayfield, Multnomah County Chair candidate for Multonomy County, will speak on homelessness strategy with Multhnomam County chair candidate Shara Maifield
EXERCISE Given that the countys approach to homelessness is such a significant issue, I wanted to ask you (as well as the other candidates) if you support the current direction Chair Kafoury has promoted; whether you would push for the same priorities unless elected, notably in accentuating permanent housing with fewer emphasis on temporary shelter, or s/he would suggest any changes in direction. What do you think might voters expect on homelessness from a commission you run versus what theyre seeing now?
The homeless situation is terrible, it keeps getting worse, and it will only get worse if we do not change our course immediately. Oregon now has the second most unsheltered population in the United States (after Nevada) after California. A recent People for Portland poll showed that 84% of those polled believe local elected officials must act faster in addressing the homeless issue, and 85% of respondents support safe villages replacing street camping. Therefore, I would undoubtedly be changing my priorities to align with what a large number of people here are demanding and deserve: common-sense rapid action.
While I, of course, support long-term affordable housing, the reality is that the unsheltered, as well as their neighbors, do not have the luxury of waiting years for permanent solutions. All but one of my challengers are present Multnomah County Commissioners promising us solutions, yet we must ask ourselves: where have those solutions been for the last several years in which they were in a position to implement actual change? Under the current administration, the streets dont lie, and anyone with eyes can see that things have only worsened. Einige may blame the crisis on the pandemic, but we are not the only state in the world dealing with the epidemic, and this is not a time for excuses. The rising unsheltered issue is a humanitarian and hygiene crisis that calls for short-term critical urgency that I can offer. That is why Im entering this race with a get-things-done attitude, which will require collaboration from all local leadership, non-profits, private sector developers, and mental health professionals.
My 5-step plan to address the houselessness crisis is data-based and results-oriented, with indicators to assess progress and accountability from the get-go. If I felt confident that another candidate could do a faster, more compassionate job, I wouldn't be running.
Coming from a pragmatic legal and policy background, I am of the mindset, Dont let perfection be the enemy of good. My platform, as well as my campaign website, places the housing issue at the center, and calls for a 5-step metrics-based approach to address the homeless crisis:
1. Statisticians: To assess the homeless population and determine progress, establish metrics and ensure accountability.
2. Homeshare: Incentivize a county-run subleasing/lease and homeshare program (which provides free background checks for interested homeowners) to open up to 20,000+ rooms. The quickest path to short-term affordable housing is to open up existing bedrooms to those in need.
3. Alternatives: Transform the unsheltered into rest villages, shelters, motels, and support mobile estates/safe parking, with access to sanitation services being crucial. The need for a coordinated, tailored response, with collaboration from non-profits and private sector developers, is high, since not all of the homeless are the same.
4. Behavioral: Increase mental health response teams and MultCo Street Response teams to respond to mental illness crises, while also expanding behavioral resource centers. My background in civil commitment appeals has enabled me to better understand the legal tools available to peace officers and mental health providers to protect those in crisis (and their neighbors).
5. Garbage: As we develop alternative shelter solutions, we encourage the clean-up through adopt-a-block initiatives and long-term litter/biohazard prevention.
If you're not happy with the status quo, then I'm not your candidate. But I'd like to ask everyone who has read this: have things improved or decreased in recent years? Have the people we elected acted with urgency all along? Good intentions are simply not enough in this case. We need someone with the will to get things done, and I promise to do everything possible, other than moving mountains, to treat these crises as real emergencies. I will push for solutions you can actually see: cleaner streets, safe shelter, booming business, rebuilding confidence in law enforcement through necessary reforms, and creating a more beautiful Multnomah County for all. We deserve so much more than empty promises and snail-pace progress. Its time to reclaim our county once more.