PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Despite strong economic growth in Multnomah County, low- and middle-income workers are being left behind, according to a new report on local poverty presented Tuesday to Multnomah County commissioners.
Read the entire report at the bottom of this article
Since 2010, Portland has become the 10th-wealthiest major city in the US. But researches said the benefits have been concentrated at the top of the income ladder. A total of 34% of Multnomah County households don’t have enough income to meet their basic needs.
“As you all know all too well, the headlines only tell part of the story,” said Peggy Samolinski, the director of the Youth and Family Services Division in the Department of County Human Services. “Despite our region’s strong economy, many of the counties most vulnerable residents have not benefited.”
The 2019 Poverty in Multnomah County Report, produced by the Multnomah County Commission for Economic Dignity, looks at different angles of poverty, including demographics and geography.
Researchers found deep disparities. According to the report, a disproportionate amount of people in poverty are women, people of color, immigrants and refugees, children, single parent families, seniors, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.
By location, Outer East Portland has the county’s highest poverty rate — 22% — followed by Gresahm and East County, North Portland and Northeast Portland.
“We’ve seen from the data that poverty is increasing, especially among certain populations and that just says to me and says to our board that we have to be really intentional,” Multnomah County Chairperson Deborah Kafoury said. “One-size-fits-all programs are not going to do it. We have to target geographic areas, we have to target different populations based on age and communities of color.”
The report includes some 13 recommendations for addressing poverty in Multnomah County. They include making sure there are support services in areas of the county that need it most and investing in the well-being and development of children.
“I think that what really comes out of the report for me is that our communites well- being is at stake when so many people are living and suffering in poverty,” Kafoury told KOIN 6 News. “It’s really up to all of us, even those who are not living in poverty, to help everybody in our community.”
Samolinski hopes the Multnomah County commissioners really think about what this report shows.
“As we move through our next several years of budget that we think about here’s what we’re funding as a county, and using our precious general fund resources for, and who are we using them for, and how is what we’re investing in supporting some of the folks that are living on the margin and are struggling with homelessness or mental health or to meet their basic needs,” she told KOIN 6 News. “Being able to say with some veracity, yes, we’re investing in those that need it the most.”
The “2019 Poverty in Multnomah County” report was put together by Kristina Smock Consulting for the Multnomah County Department of County Human Services, Youth and Family Services Division under the oversight of the Multnomah County Commission for Economic Dignity.
Diane Besser at Portland State University provided research help.