PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Efforts to tackle homelessness and COVID-19-related crises are driving much of the $2.8 billion budget for Multnomah County, called a “once in a generation” plan by Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
The pandemic has exacerbated the homeless crisis. When the eviction moratorium expires at the end of June many are worried there will be a wave of evictions.
Keeping people housed and getting people off the streets is a big focus of the Multnomah County budget, the largest budget the county has ever produced.
In May 2020, voters approved the 10 year, $2.5 billion Metro Supportive Housing Services Measure. Because of that, the county has $52 million this year and $100 million in 2022 to invest in programs to reduce homelessness. That includes rent assistance, behavioral health and addiction services, increasing shelter capacity, street outreach and other support services to keep people from ending up on the streets.
The county’s goal is to create 1300 homes for people currently experiencing homelessness and help another 1000 households avoid homelessness by helping them stay in the homes they already have.
“We feel very confident that we’re going to be able to get a lot of people in our community into housing and not just into shelter, but into housing, so it will permanently end their homelessness,” Kafoury told KOIN 6 News.
“There’s no denying how great the need is right now,” she said. “One look at the tents on streets, neighbors in doorways and in encampments show us what’s at stake now as we build a system that can finally catch up to the unmet need we’ve faced for years.”
The county expects to spend more than $78 million in the next fiscal year dealing with the pandemic. Money will go to maintaining the public health infrastructure that’s already in place, in addition to adding staff for investigations and gathering data.
Thursday’s announcement kicks off six weeks of budget presentations. There will also be public hearings on May 5 and May 12 before the budget is scheduled for adoption on June 3.