Feb. 25, 2020

Dear friends and neighbors,

Since 2016, more than 12,000 people experiencing the trauma of living outside found respite through housing and services. That effort has required the commitment, resources and know-how of governments, nonprofits and volunteers across the tri-county area. 

Our combined response has been just enough to keep the crisis from getting worse. Every night, more than 5,000 people still sleep outside, waiting for a chance to find home.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I noticed mounting frustration in our community. Not toward our struggling neighbors, but at the fact that help for them wasn’t coming fast enough and there wasn’t enough of it to go around. People were aching for a response that was big and bold enough to turn the tide against homelessness. A response that was coordinated, regional and smart; one that reflected the kind of compassionate community we believe we can be.

It became increasingly clear that we were approaching a critical moment in the community’s desire and support for such a response. So I started working with key stakeholders to figure out what it would take to ensure people receive the stabilizing services and resources they needed to avoid homelessness. Trusted homelessness service providers, advocates and people with lived experience, members of the business and faith communities, and elected officials from across the region eagerly joined the conversation.

These partners ultimately became HereTogether, a broad coalition united in the belief that homelessness is solvable if we truly commit the resources to that goal. Our work helping people experiencing homelessness doesn’t end in the doorway of an affordable home; services like case management, mental health and addiction treatment support, and rent assistance are critical to help our neighbors find stability once they’re inside. 

Ultimately, HereTogether proposed a ballot measure that would raise at least $250 million of dedicated revenue for supportive housing services per year, for the next 10 years. 

HereTogether’s coalition members and supporters advocated passionately to bring this ballot measure in front of local voters. This afternoon, Metro will vote on referring the measure to the May ballot.

This would be an unprecedented investment in supportive housing services, but that’s exactly what’s needed to meet a crisis of unprecedented scale. By coming together as a coalition, HereTogether is giving our community a fighting chance to make the most significant impact on homelessness our region has ever seen. By coming together as a community, we can turn that chance into a reality.

Please join me in standing up for our neighbors in need of a hand up and making our region the welcoming, safe and accessible community we know it can be.


Deborah Kafoury

Multnomah County Chair

County news you may have missed

Celebrating Black History and Future Month with Black Economic Empowerment:

Women business owners celebrate Black History and Future Month in Multnomah County.

On Thursday,  Feb. 20, inspired by the testimony from the owners of three local Black-owned businesses, the Board of County Commissioners proclaimed February as Black History and Future Month in Multnomah County. The proclamation was co-sponsored by Chair Deborah Kafoury and Commissioner Susheela Jayapal... Keep Reading

Information about Novel Coronavirus COVID-19: The Multnomah County Health Department is closely tracking information about novel coronavirus (COVID-19)... Keep Reading

Board Celebrates National League of Women Voters’ Centennial with Proclamation:

Multnomah County Board members pose with past and present board presidents of the League of Women Voters.

In honor of the League of Women Voters' centennial, the Board of County Commissioners proclaimed Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 as League of Women Voters Day. “Women’s voices have been central to many of the most important and groundbreaking movements in our country’s history — the civil rights movement, access to community health and free education,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury as she introduced the resolution... Keep Reading

Multnomah County Awarded Additional $2 Million to Advance Local Justice System Reform:

Multnomah County is the recipient of a $2 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation which will support the County in their continued efforts to advance local criminal justice system reform and safely reduce the County’s jail population. This brings the Foundation’s total investment in Multnomah County to $4.425 million to date... Keep Reading

Public Charge Rule can take effect, court rules:

Chair Deborah Kafoury is asking staff across all County departments to spread this message: Multnomah County will continue to welcome all people who need services, without regard to race, origin, immigration status, or ability to pay for services. "Multnomah County is committed to being a safe harbor for our neighbors who rely on County services,” she said. “While the federal administration spreads fear, Multnomah County will choose compassion and openness. Everyone is welcome here." Keep Reading

Out and about in Multnomah County

Chair Kafoury holding mic

Feb. 12:

Commissioner Lori Stegmann and I joined 80 people in East County for a community conversation about the homelessness services ballot measure. We were inspired by the enthusiasm they shared for strengthening the services that give people the best chance at exiting homelessness and building stability.

Chair Kafoury and Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone

Feb. 5:

I was thrilled to finally meet new Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone in person. Chief Boone was the first black woman hired by Portland Fire & Rescue in 1995 and recently became the bureau's first African American chief. I'm excited for the vision and leadership she offers our community. And in a bit of serendipity, we figured out that we grew up just two blocks apart on NE 15th Ave.!

Portland Business Alliance

Feb. 7:

County Communications Director Julie Sullivan-Springhetti and I met with members of the Portland Business Alliance to talk about the importance of public service and how to tell your story in the world of changing media.

Apply to be a Planning Commission volunteer

Multnomah County’s Land Use Planning Division is looking for two residents who live in Multnomah County to serve as volunteer members on the county’s Planning Commission.

The Multnomah County Planning Commission addresses rural land use planning issues to meet state planning requirements and policies set forth by Multnomah County’s Board of County Commissioners that apply to the county’s rural areas.

The Planning Commission typically makes recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners for adoption, revision or repeal of components of the Comprehensive Plan, zoning code and other regulatory ordinances intended to carry out the plan as adopted by the board.

Applications are due by close of business on Friday March 13, 2020. Learn more about the opportunity here.

You can invite Chair Kafoury to your group's event or a meeting by filling out this form.

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