Clackamas County homeless funding cuts averted, leaders say

Clackamas County

Commissioners direct staff to unearth funds to meet budget gap, though exactly what money will be used is not known yet.

PMG FILE PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN – Oregon City’s Newell Creek Canyon, owned by Metro, has been a popular site for homeless camping for many years.

The Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group’s papers are a KOIN 6 News media partner

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Clackamas County says it will fend off feared cuts to existing homeless services due to a funding gap — though exactly where the fill-in dollars will be found is as of yet unknown.

An alliance of local nonprofits, unions and providers cheered the news, saying it would forestall an “imminent loss of housing and homeless services” for hundreds of county residents.

“All too often when we talk about government bureaucracies, it’s about the failure of the system to help the people it’s created to serve,” said Angela Martin, executive director of the HereTogether Coalition. “We are beyond pleased to have the chance to celebrate the leaders for stepping up in real time to help ensure that the government remained in service to its intended goals.”

It was HereTogether who successfully convinced the voters to pass a business and personal income tax to raise money for supportive housing services in the metro area last year. Most haven’t actually paid the tax yet.

While Washington and Multnomah counties have begun to spend those dollars anyway, using self-loans that bank on the revenue coming next spring, the funding lag caught Clackamas County off guard and spurred the talk of funding cuts, according to the Oregonian.

Clackamas County commissioners waved away those worries on June 11, saying they were committed to not displacing residents and had ordered staff to search the cushions and find enough money to maintain current services and begin the ramp-up for supportive housing.

Without the new tax funds, it would take 22 years to serve residents currently on housing waitlists, the leaders said.

“We can no longer wait,” the county commission said in a joint statement. “Although we cannot access regional funds immediately to address the housing crisis, through county resources we will take care of our people.”

The exact source of funds is undetermined, a county spokeswoman said by email June 15, though an update is expected next week.

Not counting the Metro measure, the tri-county region already pays out $112 million a year on the homeless population, though of that $91 million was footed by Multnomah County, compared to just $8 million yearly spent by Clackamas.

Roughly half of that money provides supportive housing to 261 Clackamas County residents, while another quarter is spent on rapid rehousing and prevention for 300 people a year. Clackamas County spends $1.3 million providing emergency shelter to 660 people and $230,000 on transitional housing for 17 people.

Counties will have significantly more resources in hand soon, though not as much as the $250 million Metro originally promised.

Revenues for the fiscal year that begins in July are now pegged at $180 million, with Multnomah netting $68 million, Clackamas getting $32 million and Washington in line for $50 million, according to a regional government memo — and a $27 million remainder going toward startup tax-collection costs.

PMG FILE PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN – Mike Day, the Oregon City Police Department’s former homeless liaison, meets with a man near a TriMet bus stop in 2017.

Clackamas County’s formally approved implementation plan, which was based on an even more modest revenue estimate, says spending for year one will include $19.3 million for housing and services, $2.7 million on capacity building, and $1.25 million each on administration and regional projects.

Of that, $3.5 million would be spent buying or leasing shelters, and millions more would provide long-term rent assistance for 250 units and short-term rent for 130 househoulds, place 200 families in housing, create 65 emergency housing units and prevent evictions for 110 households.

“To continue our momentum, we have a procurement process underway to fund organizations with expertise in supportive housing, wrap-around supports, housing navigation and more,” county commissioners said.

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