Sen. Bonham: Lessons from our neighbors on homeless spending

Put your money where your mouth is – learning the lessons from our neighbors on homeless spending

By Oregon State Senator Daniel Bonham,

They say, “Those who do not know history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them”. As I have mentioned in previous newsletters, many of our issues mirror some of our fellow states with a similar political make-up.

Our neighbor California made national headlines again stating that California spent “$24 billion on homelessness in 5 years and didn’t consistently track outcomes”. While the committee in charge of reporting on these programs stated they didn’t “have the funding” to collect data on the programs, the reality is data won’t change what residents already know – throwing money at the problem is not working.

The issue with many of our politicians is they will tout and spend for these programs to check a box on a problem, but not have the courage to actually roll up their sleeves and do the work. Here in Oregon, we too have been spending and authorizing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to address homelessness.

If we can learn anything from our neighbors, our state needs to insist we receive annual reports about the efficiency of our tax dollars on homeless spending as well as have the intellectual honesty to identify what is working and what isn’t. And if we have learned anything — we can throw all the money in the world at programs, but if we don’t utilize the criminal justice system to ensure individuals use those programs to actually get the help they need – we may find ourselves in the same boat as our neighbor.