PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — City leaders sat in on a community meeting Wednesday night to discuss the future of Portland Street Response.
The city program has been tasked with responding to people in a mental health crisis since 2020 but continues to face uncertainty amid funding and staffing challenges.
As this program moves from pilot to permanence, city leaders say they are still facing challenges as it pertains to funding and defining what this program will be.
“The skill set you need to get something off the ground is not always the skill set you need in phase two or three of an organization,” said Rene Gonazlez, Portland city commissioner of public safety. “There’s this hope that we are getting them along the path to a better future for them. And the challenge is sometimes you call PSR and they’re going to respond and that individual is not going to accept the services that are offered.”
Gonzalez is in charge of the Portland Fire Bureau which houses PSR. His comments Wednesday night come after a petition in support of expanding the program was sent to Portland City Hall with more than 10,000 signatures.
“I want to remind you that Portlanders love PSR and people want it to be available 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Annie, a community member. “Portlanders also wanted to PSR members to be able to go into homes and to be able to give life-saving supplies like tarps and tents to the homeless.”
Both community members and city leaders alike had much to say about the future of the program, including Mayor Ted Wheeler who expressed his full support for expanding PSR 24/7, saying he opted to fully fund the program in the city’s latest budget.
Gonzelez says the team is looking to improve transportation options offered by PSR in the near future, as well as expanding the program’s response to include aiding suicide calls. He also said they are entertaining new funding options, but says he will not support the distribution of tents, tarps or smoking materials as long as he oversees the program.