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“But Teri can’t control what people do when they leave her place.” City leaders are quick to note that Oregon City has always, or at least as far back as they can remember, hosted a homeless population.Police say they’ve long had a community of campers living in Newell Creek Canyon, the thickly wooded depression west of Oregon 213.The debate gets into a different philosophical question, one the entire region faces in one form or another: Homelessness has become a fact of life throughout much of the metro area, one that will exist and expand until rents drop and either incomes or the stock of affordable housing supply rise. “I understand and appreciate the role Father’s Heart plays,” Frasher said.
The recession brought it out of hiding, and turned it into a crisis.Now homeless people have a place to shower, change clothes, rest and get a hot meal close to other services, such as the county courthouse and Social Security office.In Oregon City, the spread of poverty has prompted a chicken-or-the-egg type debate: Which came first, the homeless people or the homeless shelter?Homelessness is now an unavoidable fact of life in the cities and small towns ringing Portland, a problem too large and prevalent to solve the way certain suburban communities once did.“When I started in this work, Clackamas County’s housing policy was basically, ‘Here’s a bus ticket to Portland,’” said Steve Rudman, who retired last fall after 13 years running Home Forward, Multnomah County’s public housing agency. There are just too many people now.” The post-downtown rise in homelessness takes several forms: First, suburban communities have seen a noticeable increase in the number of homeless adults wandering their streets and carving out campsites under bridges, in thickets and in doorways — a similar phenomenon to what urban Portlanders have lived with for decades.
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