Are you wondering what is being done to help people experiencing houselessness? Wonder no more! An easy-to-read summary of the plan, known as A Home For Everyone, is posted here. Read more details here.
Note, I use the term "houseless" not "homeless". A survey has shown that 80% of the people unsheltered in Portland today have been Multnomah County residents for more than two years. Portland is their home. They don't have houses or apartments, but they are still our neighbors. Only 15% of those seeking services in Portland came to our city from elsewhere. Often, those folks come from other parts of the Metro region or the state of Oregon.
In the past 10 years, the City, County and Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland) have helped over 12,000 people get off the streets and into homes. In the past ten years, average rent has increased 30% while average wage has decreased 5%. People are losing their housing every day due to this imbalance.
To fix this, the A Home For Everyone plan identifies $30 million in additional funding is needed - $20 million ongoing for services, such as rent assistance, subsidies, social services, etc.,; and $10 million for construction of new affordable housing. The plan calls for $5 million in additional funding for shelters, and $12.5 million for permanent supportive housing, in order to cut the number of people living outside by 50% in two years (i.e., by the end of 2017).
Together, the City and County have allocated $20 million so far. This is in addition to the Council tripling the budget for the Portland Housing Bureau, over the seven years I have been in office and voting on budgets. The plan states; "What it takes to end homelessness: Do enough, for long enough".
The question is now, are Portlanders willing to pay what it takes to do enough, for long enough? We know what needs to be done. We know what works and how to get to the goal. Are Portlanders willing to sacrifice other services, to pay for what it takes? More than half the City General Fund is used for Police and Fire services. The Council made cuts in five of the last seven budgets, since I've been on the Council. Money is needed for basic services in other areas, too, such as infrastructure maintenance, safety improvements, and equity for areas of Portland that lack parks, sidewalks, and other urban necessities.
Please participate in the upcoming City Budget process, to discuss how to pay for what needs to be done to improve the lives of thousands of our neighbors currently living outside, in vehicles, couch surfing, or doubled up with relatives. Information on the City Budget process is here.