Clackamas County homeless service providers lobby congresswoman for funding

Funding requests for Congress poured in from all sides at a Clackamas County center that provides meals, laundry and showers and helps connect homeless people to other services.

Clackamas County’s congressional representative promised to fight for all the requests, including more beds for mental health crises, community development block grants and family child care.

As previously reported by Oregon Capital Chronicle, U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer left a Jan. 25 discussion with city and county officials and service providers with a pledge to “work her tail off” to find more federal funding for homelessness.

“My marching orders are to address the barriers, have more access, fix what can be fixed,” said Chavez-DeRemer, R-Oregon.

Chavez-DeRemer said that she saw how a lack of affordable child care in Oregon could be leading to the state’s higher rate of homelessness if families needing care for their children could be forced to live closer to financial insecurity.

The group met in a tent in the parking lot of the Father’s Heart Street Ministry in Oregon City. Chavez-DeRemer toured the homeless center after her conversation.

More than 20,000 Oregonians lacked housing during last year’s annual Point in Time Count, and Oregonians routinely rank homelessness as the top issue facing the state. It’s a top focus for the Legislature and Gov. Tina Kotek, who is urging at least $600 million in new spending to increase the supply of housing, maintain existing shelter resources and provide rent assistance to keep more Oregonians from falling into homelessness.

Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader, a Democratic member of the officially nonpartisan commission, urged Chavez-DeRemer to support continued funding of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and especially the department’s community development block grants. Those grants and other federal and state funding helped Clackamas County get more than 650 formerly homeless people into permanent housing in the last fiscal year, Schrader said.

She added that it’s important for the federal government to invest in other services, including job training, financial coaching and child care, that help people avoid homelessness or rebuild their lives after losing their homes.

“Getting people back to work after they’ve been placed in housing and stabilized is a key pathway to success,” Schrader said.

Glen Suchanek, a formerly homeless man who now serves as the behavioral health specialist for the Milwaukie Police Department, said drugs can contribute to people living on the streets but that addiction isn’t the only issue.

“I don’t think anybody wakes up and says ‘I want to be a drug addict,’” he said.

Suchanek’s role with the small city is fairly new – he’s held the post for just over a year. He works with officers to connect people to services, clearing time for officers to spend investigating crimes and doing other work.

Milwaukie Police Capt. Ryan Burdick said the department previously had officers responding to the same people in crisis over and over again. It was a burden on police, as well as paramedics and other first responders. But Suchanek is able to help those individuals find the support they need.

“We need more Glens,” Burdick said.


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