Mark Wigg is a Salem community activist who is running for the Marion County Board of Commissioners seat currently held by Colm Willis.
Since Wigg is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and Willis is unopposed in the Republican primary, they'll face off in the November 2022 general election.
I wholeheartedly support Wigg. Currently all three of the Marion County Commissioners are conservative Republicans. Wigg would bring fresh ideas and some political balance to the board.
Here's an essay Wigg sent me about the homeless crisis. He's absolutely correct that what's being tried now isn't working very well.
From Problem to Asset
Marion County Commissioners and Salem’s Mayor are treating the homeless crisis as a problem to be addressed by pushing the homeless from camp to camp.
They think the problem is solved if these people are out of sight. They blame the homeless for their situation and want to punish them for being poor and homeless.
The commissioners and mayor then complain that businesses can’t find enough employees to stay open or expand. I’ll bet you already can see the solution to both problems. Let us hope the commissioners and mayor will see it too.
From studies and experience, I learned that about 30 percent of the homeless are too damaged physically or mentally to hold a job. The longer a person is homeless the more likely they will get to this point.
Forcing these people to live in dangerous, unsanitary camps is cruel and does nothing to reduce the problems society faces.
A friend of mine is a counselor and was working with a young person on their substance abuse problems. She would meet her client at the park near his homeless camp. After the police rousted the campers, she lost contact with her client. I would guess that her client suffered a major setback in trying to be clean and sober after that.
About 50 percent of the homeless want to work and are able to work. Many homeless people have jobs but it is a challenge to keep a job if you are homeless. For example, I went to Woodburn to find Matthew with my friend, a Private Investigator.
Matthew told her where he was camped and we found the camp, but Matthew wasn’t there. He was at work. She called and he said come the next day. When we called him the next day, he said he would not be at his camp because all his stuff was stolen while he was at work.
We don’t have the money to provide a house for every homeless person. We do have the money to provide safe, sanitary campgrounds for these people.
With 80 percent of the homeless in safe, sanitary campgrounds, the police and sheriff could focus more time on the 20 percent that currently are committing crimes. Officers have told me that 30 percent of a patrol officer’s time is spent dealing with homeless issues and most of that time is rousting campers or dealing with issues associated with unmanaged camps.
When we become the communities that help people find stable living situations so they can become employees, and when we show other communities that we care for those most in need, we become the light in these dark times, and the world needs our light.