I was recently stuck in rush-hour traffic on I-5 North by Broadway not long ago. I saw a guy hop the barricade near the shoulder and bend over. It broke my heart as he picked up some chicken strips that someone had thrown out of their window and started to eat them. No one should ever have to eat freeway chicken strips.

If you have driven down a street in Portland then you know that we have an issue with an epidemic of homelessness. Portland has over 4,000 homeless on our streets, and it isn’t the only city in the nation this affects. There are over 560,000 Americans without homes every night. 17 out of every 10,000 people will experience at least 1 night of homelessness every year.

I regularly volunteer at a day shelter and have seen firsthand the struggle people go through every day. Losing a job often precipitates homelessness, but oftentimes jobs are lost after medical issues. Having suffered from a debilitating injury for over a year, I understand how an injury/illness can spiral out of control and without support can result in homelessness. A large percentage of women are homeless after suffering from domestic abuse, which usually involves isolation and removal of support as well.

For the last several years a veteran has parked their car across my street as a place to sleep every night. This person has a job and works every day, but that isn’t enough for them to afford a place to call home.  While talking to him he told me a story about when his boss called him in to tell him it was unacceptable for him to be homeless.  The HR representative went through his finances and with him and after seeing that he couldn’t afford a studio on his salary his boss never brought it up again.

This is why I support Medicare for All, increasing the minimum wage, and have come up with the Fight to Unite Initiative. There have been several successful programs in cities for decades that prove the idea of “housing first” to solve homelessness. My initiative expands on that premise and as well as housing provides healthcare, mental health services, job training, and will help make sure that every American has a chance.