Ward 2 Corvallis City Council candidates on houselessness

by | Oct 27, 2022 | 2022 Elections, Candidates on Houselessness | 0 comments

Candidates for the Corvallis City Council were asked five questions about houselessness and how they would respond to the issue if elected to the council. Here are the answers from candidates in Ward 2. The answers have not been edited except when needed for clarity. One of the candidates, Christina Jancila, had not responded to the questions by Wednesday, Oct. 26; her answers will be posted if and when they’re received.

Briae Lewis

1. What is the proper role of the city of Corvallis in providing services to people who are unsheltered? To list a few examples: Should the city be working to provide shelter? Permanent supported housing? Affordable housing? Case management and medical services for houseless people? What has the city gotten right in its approach to houselessness? What could the city do better?

I believe the city plays a huge role in providing as many resources as possible for the unhoused in order for a better and smoother transition into permanent housing. Speaking from experience, one major resource that’s been a tremendous help is the Community Services Consortium. When the pandemic first started, myself and my roommates had lost our jobs or had reduced hours so it was getting hard to keep up with our rent and other bills. We applied for help from the CSC and were able to get rental/utility assistance for the first six months. Affordable housing is getting harder with how the current housing market is but the city’s role in providing a livable space is also vital to its very existence. There’s always more to improve on, such as looking into converting empty houses into affordable supportive housing and/or health services that are accessible even when the hospital and urgent care are unable to handle an influx. Corvallis can definitely do better and is currently on the right path when it comes to improving the lives and providing mental health assistance. 

2. Considering the recommendations from the city-county HOPE (Home, Opportunity, Planning and Equity) advisory board: Which ones would you place the highest priority on and why? What items would you add to the list of recommendations and why? What role should the city and the City Council take in implementing and funding those priorities?

As a H.O.P.E. board co-chair, I can honestly say that all of the recommendations are equally important because the goal for this advisory board is to bring the most important issues of housing to the county and city and give ideas and updates on what’s being done to alleviate the housing crisis. The pandemic has definitely made this harder but also has helped bring to light just how fragile our systems are even in the federal level when it comes to emergency resources for our most vulnerable. Currently we are looking into which recommendations need to be updated or changed altogether according to progress on different data gathering and implemented projects. Currently, there’s not much to change but that could be different in the coming months. For now, I don’t have a complete answer for that and apologize.

3. The Corvallis Police Department has launched a trial program with the Benton County Health Department to respond to people experiencing mental health crises; many of those people are unsheltered. The program is reminiscent of the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, but with at least one key difference: CAHOOTS calls are responded to by a medic and an experienced crisis worker. In Corvallis, a uniformed officer and a mental health professional respond to calls. Is this the correct approach? Why or why not?   

I believe once we are able to get the staffing, rearranging the program should be a project on the table. There is a lot of emotional distress for someone who needs mental health assistance when seeing a uniform so the approach could be better, but currently it is a working system that’s worthy of continuing until staff and resources are available to update to a better one.

4. Estimates are that the city spends tens of thousands of dollars each year posting and clearing camps where unsheltered people have been living. Do you think this is the best approach, or are there other strategies the city could consider – for example, should the city work with providers to create a managed camp or a sanctioned site where people who are unsheltered could settle?

A managed camp would be ideal for at least a temporary solution. However, there’s nothing more permanent than a temporary solution. A managed camp would still only be for a certain time. It would also still not be sufficient since there’s only so many that could be settled at a time. I believe the best course of action would be to put the money towards renovations on unused/abandoned buildings for low-/no-income families.

5. A proposal is in the works to establish a “rolling moratorium” on posting and clearing camps in city parks for a certain length of time; for example, specific parks would be identified as not to be posted or cleared for specific time periods. At the end of the period, it would be clear which park would be next on the rolling moratorium, and support from nonprofit providers and volunteers would assist in movement from one site to the next. Do you think this proposal is worth exploring? What do you see as its benefits and drawbacks? 

The main benefit and drawback is exposing just how prevalent the housing issue is. It’s absolutely imperative that there is understanding that we are dealing with actual lives and not just numbers. At the same time, residents who use such parks will be left with virtually no access to a space their tax money goes to maintaining. There’s also the concern of if there will be enough volunteers from both the community and nonprofits to effectively prepare and dismantle settlements within the parks. Then there’s those who would decide to do “vigilante justice”, taking out their anger and frustration on the current campers and those who may refuse to move despite being given ample warning of the transition. It’s a good idea but one I think can only be exploded after the situation is more manageable, which will (admittedly) take a good while.

Christina Jancila

Christina Jancila had not responded to the questions as of Wednesday, Oct. 26; her answers will be posted if and when they’re received.

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