Oregon Bill Would Give Homeless $1,000 Per Month with No Strings Attached

Homeless Oregonians would receive $1,000 monthly payments for a year to use as they choose, according to proposed legislation that, if approved, would establish the state’s first basic universal income pilot program.

Senate Bill 603, introduced in January, would provide $1,000 monthly payments for a year to people who are homeless, at risk of being homeless, severely rent-burdened, or who earn at or below 60 percent of area median income. It would appropriate $25 million from the state’s general fund to establish the People’s Housing Assistance Fund Demonstration Program, which would be administered by the Department of Human Services.

The bill seems to offer no limitations on how recipients must spend the money, which can be used to pay for rent, food, childcare, “or other goods or services of the participant’s choosing,” according to the language of the bill.

If passed, the bill would sunset after two years. But the bill would also require the Portland State University Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative to study more permanent long-term cash-assistance programs that the Legislative Assembly could approve in 2025.

According to the bill, the university study must explore various policy-design choices and program models for providing long-term cash assistance to a variety of populations in different regions of Oregon. It must consider “disparate impacts on communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities and persons identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other minority gender identities and sexual orientations.” It also must explore how to make cash-assistance accessible to “to individuals who do not have Social Security numbers or who have only taxpayer identification numbers,” the bill states.

“I think the end game is to really create a permanent program,” said Rebekah Markillie, a member of Residents Organizing for Change, a network of Oregon affordable housing advocates, according to a report by KATU, Portland’s ABC affiliate.

The bill is sponsored by Democrat Winsvey Campos, who at 27 is the youngest state senator ever elected in Oregon. According to her legislative biography, Campos was raised in a low-income home by her single father who “provided her with a strong backbone for advocacy and social justice.” The House sponsor is Representative Khanh Pham, who is also a Democrat.

More than 14,000 people are homeless in Oregon, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. More than 4,000 of those people are in the Portland area, where homeless encampments in busy neighborhoods and business corridors have become common.

In September, the city was sued and accused of failing to keep its sidewalks clear of debris and homeless tent encampments, and failing to ensure the sidewalks are accessible to people with disabilities and visual impairments. Lawyers behind the lawsuit believe that the government provided many of the tents that have clogged the city’s sidewalks.

Last year, an executive with the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland complained about losing major corporate clients due to the city’s conditions, according to a report by Willamette Week.

“Too many homeless and crazy people running around. Suffice to say, I’m furious!” the executive wrote in an email, according to the report.

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