PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Not even two years after voters approved $2.5 billion dollars for the Portland Metro governments to address homelessness, one group says not enough is being done and is asking voters to make a change.
People for Portland has submitted a ballot measure for November that would require 75% of that money to be dedicated to just shelters.
“The problem far exceeds the scale of the solution right now,” Kevin Looper, one of the group’s co-founders said.
Looper says there is too much focus on long-term solutions that are taking resources away from moving people from sleeping on the street with more immediacy. “First, shelter beds,” he said, “Short-term leads to the long term. When you get someone into a safe place that’s dry and warm, you can assess what their needs are.”
KOIN 6 spoke to several organizations around Portland that said it is too soon to know successful the 2020 tax increase is.
Here Together, a proponent of the 2020 initiative says many county governments saw the first of the money come just last summer.
Here Together co-director Angela Martin is opposed to the proposal from People to Portland because “shelter does not end anyone’s homelessness. It provides temporary refuge.”
“Shelter can be a piece of the continuum, but the goal has always got to be connecting someone with a permanent home that they can afford,” Martin said.
Martin says there has been some measurable work done will be done by July 2022, including 1,600 new shelter beds, 1,400 families prevented from eviction and 1.2 million pounds of trash removed. She also says there are more programs that are ready to begin, but there isn’t support from communities near where the solutions would be based.
“What we need today are people invested in building community support. There are six safe rest villages that are ready to be stood up and welcome people, but we need the community support behind them in order to get those temporary options up and going.”
Looper emphasizes a second piece of the ballot initiative that he says would ensure accountability.
One part would take steps to not allow conflicts or interest, or people on the oversight board who work with organizations that may receive money from the tax revenue. The other would allow people to sue government leaders for failing to adhere to the measure.
“If they just do what they’re supposed to do, provide shelter … then they don’t have anything to worry about.” Looper said.