City and county announce $ 38 million package to fight homelessness

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland and Multnomah County leaders announced a $ 38 million investment in homeless programs and public health services on Monday afternoon.

Investments will go to more shelter beds, behavioral health services, outreach workers and community clean-up initiatives – and officials said they would be funded largely by the fall budget surplus multi-million dollar city.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, County President Deborah Kafoury and City Commissioner Dan Ryan explained the details of the spending program at a press conference at 1 p.m. Monday.

“All of us here today see with clear eyes what has happened in the 40 years that have brought us here – a fundamental shift in the way we care for the most vulnerable people in our country,” said Kafoury said in a prepared statement. “This represents a rare opportunity for us to come together, pool our resources and inject an immediate infusion into our system to tackle homelessness in our community. “

Wheeler acknowledged that homelessness in the metro area had been serious since before the pandemic, but said COVID-19 “made the situation much, much more.”

“We’re doing all we can locally with the resources we have to make Portland cleaner and more compassionate,” Wheeler said.

He compared the situation in Portland to other cities across the country and asked for help from the federal government.

“In Congress, I call on you to view homelessness as the national humanitarian disaster that it is,” Wheeler said. “American cities cannot fix homelessness without your help. This crisis will not end until there is a federally funded plan to deal with it. “

Officials said the investment was also aimed at targeting some of the city’s “high impact” areas such as the Old Town district of Chinatown.

“Nowhere is this gap in the need for behavioral services and their availability more apparent right now than our downtown area, especially the Old Town,” Kafoury said.

A fraction of the total, $ 7 million, will be spent on expanding garbage collection and campground cleaning programs, officials said.

The city and county will share the funding almost equally, with Portland receiving about $ 18.8 million and Multnomah County receiving about $ 19.2 million.

On October 8, the city’s budget office said the city had recorded a general fund surplus of $ 62 million, half of which can be spent during a period called the city’s budget monitoring process. fall. As part of the BMP, Portland city commissioners analyze the city’s budget and vote on whether to make changes.

Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office has already expressed interest in spending $ 400,000 of that money to rehire retired police officers to fill vacant positions at the Portland Police Office, according to KOIN 6 News partner The Portland Tribune. .

Policing and homelessness programs will also be two major talking points when city leaders meet on Thursday.

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About Chris Y. Camp

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