PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Street Response Team exists so someone other than police can respond to calls where a person is experiencing homelessness or is in a mental health crisis.

The start of the program was delayed by the pandemic so the team has only been responding to calls for a few months in a pilot program in the Greater Lents area. They work Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., though the plan is to expand the hours this weekend.

A member of the Portland Street Response Team, April 2021 (KOIN)

The Portland City Council met Tuesday to discuss Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $5.7 billion proposed budget that includes funding for small businesses, homelessness and community safety.

Portland Fire & Rescue requested $4.2 million to expand the Portland Street Response Team citywide, but Wheeler’s proposed budget includes $978,000 to continue funding the program at its current level.

City of Portland Proposed Budget FY 2021-2022

“At this time there is limited data on the effectiveness of the pilot program,” the budget document states. “More time is required to answer key questions, including the number and types of calls the teams are responding to, the impact of the program on the workloads of police and fire and the community’s experience with Portland Street Response.”

Street Roots director Kaia Sand said the need for this program is huge. She was shocked and disappointed to see the budget only include 23% of the funding needed to expand it citywide.

Street Roots director Kaia Sand, May 4, 2021 (KOIN)

“We know enough now to know that when non-police first responders with skills in crisis work and de-escalation respond to calls without guns that that leads to better outcomes,” Sand said.

Sand would like to see the program operate across the city in the next fiscal year. For now, though, the city said it plans to evaluate the pilot program at the 6- and 12-month marks and use that information to decide whether — and how — to expand it further.

The mayor’s office said they are discussing the right investment for the next fiscal year and are united in the goal of providing safe, effective service to people in crisis.

The Portland City Council will take public input on the proposed budget during a hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday.