Council approves $27 million for Wheeler's homeless plan
The Portland City Council approved Mayor Ted Wheeler's $27 million request to jumpstart the construction of six large sanctioned homeless encampments on Wednesday.
The Nov. 30 vote was part of the council's Fall Budget Monitoring Process. The funding will also help implement the five resolutions to reduce homelessness and end unsanctioned camping co-sponsored by Commissioner Dan Ryan. They were previously approved by the council.
"City Council's approval of these homelessness and affordable housing investments demonstrates our seriousness in addressing these issues. The success of this work hinges on federal, regional, state and local partners coming to the table with their ideas, services and resources," Wheeler said after the morning vote.
The vote happened despite Tuesday evening email from Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury to the council that said a proposal to relocate around $7 million in Portland funds from city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services to fund the camps could increase the number of homeless on the streets.
"In the short term, this cut would result in a reduction of $6.2 million to the Joint Office Shelter Capital funds and require one-time funding to cover shelter operations at the River District Navigation Center and Wy'East Shelter for the remainder of the fiscal year," said the email, which also detailed programs that could be cut if the reduction continues into future budgets. It predicted 250 shelter beds operated by the joint office could eventually be lost.
Wheeler acknowledged there's been a major breakdown between the city and county on who's responsible for the city's homeless and trash crises.
"The main problem is that nobody wants to be in the mud," Wheeler said. "We haven't agreed who cleans up the mess."
The proposal by Wheeler and Ryan was born of frustration. The number of homeless people in Multnomah County increased 30% to more than 5,000 people over the past two years, despite record spending on affordable housing and supportive services. That's according to the most recent Point in Time count — the federally mandated but notoriously nonscientific head count of homeless people on a given day.
As of mid-November, the city's Impact Reduction Program had also identified nearly 500 active, unregulated campsites in the city.
Wheeler and Ryan have said the plan cannot succeed without additional funding from Multnomah County, Metro and the State of Oregon. In a press release on the vote, the mayor's office listed the following requests the city is pursuing:
• Multnomah County to provide $21 million to fund the capital and operations for three of the six sanctioned sites, behavioral and mental health resources, data, and housing navigation. The County has over $33 million in both over collected and underspent resources through both the Joint Office of Homeless Services and the region's Supportive Housing Services funding provided to the county.
• Metro to lead a process in 2023 to revisit the regional $250 million-a-year Supportive Housing Services measure allocation formula for both existing funding allocations and managing unanticipated revenue collections.
• State of Oregon to declare a State of Emergency on Homelessness and assist in establishing these sanctioned sites. In addition, we ask for the State's support of the Oregon Mayor's Association Taskforce on Homelessness' request for a budget package totaling $123 million ongoing annually, during the 2023 Legislative Session to provide direct allocations to cities for homelessness response and prevention services.
"A few weeks ago, the mayor and his staff met with Gov.-elect Tina Kotek and Multnomah County Chair-elect Jessica Vega Pederson at City Hall to discuss the mayor's resolution package. Both expressed their support for this work and committed to working productively with the mayor's office and City Council moving forward. Conversations between the mayor's office and Metro leadership continue," the announcement said.
The other resolutions are intended to create 20,000 more units of affordable housing by 2030, create a diversion program for those with mental health and addiction problems being moved off the streets and create workforce training programs to help the homeless find employment.
A previous Portland Tribune story on the issue can be found at pamplinmedia.com/.
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