Congressional candidate Joe Kent gives his solutions to homeless crisis in Vancouver

Joe Kent, a Republican running for congress, and Jim Walsh, the chair of the Washington State Republican Party, were in Vancouver on Saturday to discuss their solutions to the homelessness crisis. Photo by Paul Valencia
Joe Kent, a Republican running for congress, and Jim Walsh, the chair of the Washington State Republican Party, were in Vancouver on Saturday to discuss their solutions to the homelessness crisis. Photo by Paul Valencia

Secure the border, bring back manufacturing jobs, fund mental health facilities, and keep Portland’s problems out of Southwest Washington are among Joe Kent’s priorities

Paul Valencia

Before setting up for a promo video, Joe Kent and Jim Walsh surveyed the area.

Tin foil on the ground, evidence of drug use. Orange caps from needles, more evidence. And a bottle that appeared to be full of urine.

All right next to a tent set up just off the sidewalk on West 12th Street in Vancouver, across the street from homes.

“It’s incumbent that we take mental health very seriously, and we actually have compassion,” said Kent, a Republican who is again running for Congress in Washington’s third district. “We actually work toward getting them off the streets and making sure they’re getting the mental health services they need.”

“We’re here to talk about the hardships that have been put on the neighborhoods here in Vancouver and all around Southwest Washington by bad public policy that has created homelessness, street crime, and drug abuse,” said Walsh, the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. 

While the election is 15 months away, they want to start getting the message out now that the homeless crisis was created by a number of issues, and they believe their party’s platform has the solutions needed for Southwest Washington.

Kent, who lost to Marie Gluesenkamp Perez by less than 1 percent of the vote last November, said it is important for Republicans to unite. Kent believes conservatives are on the right side of this homeless issue.

He said it starts with triage. His top priority would be securing the U.S. southern border. While there are a number of drugs that are being abused, it is fentanyl that is the biggest problem, the biggest killer, right now. And fentanyl is being trafficked over the border.

Drug abuse is a factor in many cases of homelessness, too.

“Seal off the border to make it impossible for the Mexican drug cartels and the Chinese Community Party to poison our people,” Kent said.

When the Democrats refuse to vote for more border security, they, too, are sending a message, Kent said.

“That’s pretty clear cut, they don’t take these deaths seriously,” Kent said. 

Congress could also work toward bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, he noted.

“Ever since we decided that we were going to ship our jobs overseas, we closed down the ability for people to get decent paying jobs right out of high school. With that, you had the break up of a lot of families, a lot of economic hard times,” Kent said.

He would work to bring back manufacturing jobs, calling that another priority.

He also said the federal government can put an emphasis on mental health care.

Walsh blamed Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s policies for the failure of mental health facilities in the state, which he claims led to many mentally unstable people to be sent to live on the streets.

Walsh said that the idea to allow local communities to handle such a crisis was misguided. 

“This is an issue that traditionally has been funded by the federal government, administered by the state government, and they’ve screwed both ends of the equation,” Walsh said. “It’s bad stuff.”

Walsh and Kent said that yes, a United States Representative can have a large impact on the homelessness problem, not just in one’s home district, but throughout the country.

“We’re going to try our best to get people who need help off of sidewalks and streets and parks and back into the hospitals and the care facilities that they need to get their mental health in good order and get their addiction under control, and to get back on a better track in life,” Walsh said. “What we’re doing now, herding people out into the streets, it’s inhumane. We can do better, and we will do better.”

When Kent sees Americans living in tents, it makes him angry.

“Washington, D.C. has yet to find a foreign aid crisis somewhere or a war they don’t want to fund. Who comes last? Every single time, the American citizen comes last,” Kent said. “I think it’s an absolute travesty that we have people living on the streets like this, our own citizens.”

That is his message, that his party, he says, wants to prioritize American citizens. 

“D.C. has a habit of paying for war and foreign aid Ponzi schemes before taking care of American citizens,” Kent said. “If we start taking care of American citizens, if that’s our starting point, I think we’ll start to be able to make real improvements in people’s lives.”

Kent has 15 months to make his argument.

“I don’t think saying you want a secure border, you want safe streets, you want fiscal responsibility, and you want to protect our kids, I don’t think that’s got a big ‘R’ by it,” Kent said. “Right now, the Democrat Party is the absolute opposite of that. It’s really going to come down to unifying common sense conservatives and getting our message out to people who know things aren’t right.”

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