Homelessness, the lack of safe, clean, and secure shelter is one of the greatest social problems that we face today. I see homelessness every day in Salem, my hometown, and I have seen it in Portland, Baker City, Bend, Klamath Falls, Coos Bay, and all the communities of Oregon that I have visited in the course of this campaign.
Last Thursday, I attended a homelessness conference in Portland, and this week my wife Selma will participate in serving homeless families through an outreach program at our church. Through the giving of our time and money, we have served the homeless and the poor in Salem and throughout our state for many years. But, serving the immediate needs of our fellow citizens is not enough. Every year the homeless population increases and, with it, human suffering increases. It is time to make homelessness a rare occurrence, rather than a common event in Oregon.
The answer is the dignity of work. People who work full-time are not desperately poor, have better physical and emotional health, and generally avoid harmful vices and addictions. The preparation for work requires adequate education and training, as well as the treatment of addictions and mental illness. It requires a much more diverse and robust economy that provides an abundance of jobs. It requires the “safety net” that helps in times of need but never becomes a way of living.
Work must always pay more than not working. This may require financial assistance for full time, but modestly paid workers and may include tax credits, childcare credits, and premium support for health care. The small number of individuals who truly cannot work must be provided good living accommodations and support. But, the general goal of new, thriving - and yet caring - Oregon should be a full-time job for everyone who can work.
As Governor, I will make “the dignity of work” the cornerstone of my efforts to serve the citizens of Oregon. I will do all that I can to ensure that Oregonians have the education and training to work, and that our businesses are supported and encouraged to grow and to develop our economy. By working together, we can end the scourge of homelessness.