Dark side and bright side to local housing

Guest View Point

The Siuslaw News recently began a series to shine a light on the current housing crisis.  It has generated a great deal of positive response. Many have stepped forward to offer help and suggestions to alleviate this issue. 

However, a recent letter to the editor (“News Story Paints False Picture,” Nov. 25) sparked a bit of a debate on the issue. The response illustrates how some members of our community are misinformed and unaware of what many others in our community are experiencing, as well as throughout the State of Oregon.

The writer of that letter seems to want the Siuslaw News to only report on the positive things going on in our area. The writer also claimed there were unsubstantiated facts reported in Part I of “Is Coastal Living in Jeopardy?” (Nov. 15.)

Her letter cites the city of Florence’s website to dispute those numbers when, in fact, the numbers reflected in the article were inclusive of the greater Florence area (Dune City, Heceta and Mapleton) that contribute to our local economy.

The estimated numbers come from feasibility studies done in the past 10 years, Lane County, Dunes City, City of Florence and U.S. Census Bureau.

By the calculations of the letter writer, she reports nearly 60 percent of Florence residents are of retirement age. The relevancy of that is a lower number of “work force” residents compared to communities of similar size.

Here are some substantiated documented statistics collected from Lane County, U.S. Census Bureau and the City of Florence to consider:

  • 826 document homeless individuals living in our area,
  • 2,956 unduplicated Florence-area residents sought assistance with rent or utilities in 2016.
  • $32,588 average household gross income for the greater Florence area (or $47,318 for Lane County).

In Part II of “Coastal Living in Jeopardy,” (Nov. 22), City Planning Director Wendy FarleyCampbell confirmed there is a housing issue at hand and many wage earners are only a paycheck away from homelessness.

Most recently, in Part III of the series (Nov. 29), local property managers and builders have confirmed that many are homeless due to no fault of their own, but rather because of a larger economic issue.

This is the case around much of the country.

It may be that some in our community do not see a problem because there are so many groups like SOS, Helping Hands, Food Share, local churches and individuals helping the homeless with clothing, showers, tents, sleeping bags, motel stays and food.

There are many homeless individuals working during the day and sleeping in their vehicles at night.

Yes, I agree there are homeless individuals that choose to be homeless.

Yes, there are homeless individuals who suffer from drug addiction. Oregon ranks second to last in the availability of drug and alcohol rehabilitation programming — but, that is another issue altogether.

There are many who are working, or want to work, but cannot obtain affordable housing as illustrated in Part III. There are also several seniors in our community whose sole income is Social Security and, as a result, cannot afford housing. The reasons and causes of homelessness are as vast as the number of those experiencing it.

Now for the brighter side…

The City of Florence has been taking action on this issue like never before. Mayor Joe Henry, members of the Florence City Council and their committees, as well as city staff, are aggressively working to create workforce housing opportunities and encourage business development that is not dependent on seasonal tourism.

The reason, in part, for this housing crisis is that we have a high quality of life here. People drive through town and see we live in a community full of caring citizens. We have great facilities, wonderful events and an active Chamber of Commerce. We enjoy the arts, have good schools, experience a low crime rate and enjoy beauty all around us. We live in an area full of generous people who give of their time, talents and money to support their neighbor. We have organizations like SOS, Food Share, Helping Hands, Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club and others filled with amazing volunteers that provide help to those in need. We have active service clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis, Soroptimist, Lions and veteran clubs working hard to improve our community. I know I am leaving some out because we are so blessed with many caring groups and individuals in our community.

Because we have so many caring selfless individuals and groups out there, I am confident we can solve this issue.  It is just going to take time to do it right and sustain long term.

To do so, we must be willing to both embrace the bright side while shedding light on those things that aren’t so bright.

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