PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland City Council and Multnomah County commissioners are gathering to find a better way to handle homelessness on Friday afternoon, in their first joint session since 2020.

The hearing’s focus is on the Joint Office of Homeless Services, which was formed seven years ago in a partnership between the city and the county to help solve the homeless crisis. Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Mayor Ted Wheeler will share recommendations for how to strengthen that partnership.

Those recommendations include building a system data blueprint, improving invoice and payment processes for providers, convening providers for summits and regular meetings, broadening healthcare engagement, and streamlining funding policies for providers.

The pair also recommend updating policies for Coordinated Access, “a system designed to match the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness with limited supportive housing resources.”

“Today is our opportunity not only to be briefed on the strategic recommendations to improve operations at the Joint Office, but to kick-start the conversations we must have about our homelessness response system with the City,” Vega Pederson said.

A report recently commissioned by the county revealed ‘barriers to the effectiveness’ at the JOHS — including communication, getting service providers paid, and keeping track of how many people are successfully housed. 

In response, the city and county are also working to better coordinate who should be in charge of doing what for the joint office.

“Our community expects action now,” Wheeler said. “I look forward to having a solutions-based discussion on next steps for the Joint Office of Homeless Services.”

However, the City Council is seriously considering whether to part ways with the county — using the $40 million it contributes to do more to get people off the streets with temporary housing.

“I think a really emergent issue in the past couple of years is just the need to not just have this be a conversation between city and county and the providers that we have, but how our healthcare partners are coordinated care systems have to be a key piece of the work that we’re doing around homelessness response, because of the acuity of behavioral health issues that we’re seeing with so many people in severe addiction,” Vega Pederson said.

Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.