Multnomah County chair proposes major investments to fight homelessness, COVID-19 response in 'once in a generation' $2.81B budget

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – As Multnomah County continues to fight a pandemic, Chair Deborah Kafoury is releasing her $2.81B budget, with major investments in the COVID-19 response and programs to fight homelessness.

Kafoury calls this a ‘once in a generation’ plan. The budget represents a 37% increase in community investments over 2021, with funding coming from several sources including the federal government and passed ballot measures.

“We’ve been, obviously, investing in homeless services for a while here and we just haven’t had the amount of money to really scale up. We know that there are people who are sleeping outside who need more than just a few months of rent assistance. They actually need the support services that help keep people in their housing, and that could be drug and alcohol treatment, that could be mental health supports, or that could be long-term rent assistance for people who experience severe disabilities or for people who are elderly,” said Kafoury.

The proposed budget includes a $52M investment in programs to address people living on the streets. The county would be able to find new homes for up to 1,300 families experiencing homelessness. The money would also add more than 400 new shelter beds and address racial disparities in this community.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services demonstrates the break down in a graph, showing 5% of the investment will also address street outreach, which could connect nearly 2,000 more people to services.

Budget breakdown from the Joint Office of Homeless Services

“The Metro measure that was passed is going to be life changing for many, many people in our community,” Kafoury told FOX 12. “Not only are we going to be able to get people into housing, which is the goal, and help them with the other issues that they’re living with, but we’re going to be able to support outreach workers to go out in the community and establish relationships with people. That helps them get off the streets and into housing.”

The federal government is directing a total of $157.6M to the county through the American Rescue Plan.

Initially, the county will receive $78.8M that the chair proposes be spent the next fiscal year on public health.

The next several weeks will include budget presentations and public hearings before a final vote on June 3.