Metro hears from public on tax to help the homeless

Civic Affairs

This was the first of 3 public forums

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — On Monday night, Washington County residents gathered at a public forum to discuss a potential new tax aimed at helping the Metro area’s homeless community.

The Metro Council meeting was packed with people—more than 200—from the community and those who serve the homeless to talk about ways to solve this problem. Many think this potential tax could help. It’s a 1% tax on people who make over $125,000 a year, or couples who make a quarter of a million dollars a year. The money would provide assistance like mental health services to the homeless.

It won’t just be for services in Portland. The Metro Council and the Here Together Coalition are hoping to address homelessness at its core—across Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties.

“We are looking at a regional tax focusing on high-income earners earning over $125,000—making sure that our economy works for everyone,” said Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Metro Council Deputy President. He said he was amazed by the turn-out at Monday night’s meeting. “I think it speaks to the hunger people have for a solution to address homelessness in our region.”

People sat in groups to discuss the potential tax that would generate funds to provide services for the homeless community. February 10, 2020 (KOIN)

With this tax, they are hoping to get between $250 and 300 million annually. That money would go toward housing vouchers, mental health, and additional services in all three counties.

“What we don’t have yet are the flexible dollars that help people who are getting into those homes, transition out of homelessness, get stable, have a case manager, be able to maintain their health and wellness,” said Cole Merkel of the Here Together Coalition. “We need to have a broad, community-based solution that crosses all three counties.”

At Monday’s public forum, people sat in groups and talked about the issue. This was just one of three public forums scheduled on the proposed tax. The next one will be held in Clackamas County on Tuesday, and the third in Multnomah County on Wednesday.

“Homelessness is an issue that has no boundaries,” said Gonzalez. “People are experiencing homelessness in this region, in the state, throughout the country. I have faith that this approach will really strengthen our region’s ability to address the homelessness crisis.”

Following the three public forums across the area, the Metro Council will also hear public testimony at a meeting on Thursday, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The council will vote on if they will refer this measure to be on the ballot on the 20th. Regardless of what the council decides, the tax would go to the voters for the final say. The measure would be separate from housing bonds that Portland and Metro voters have already approved in the past.

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