October 31: Stepping up for our neighbors living outside as winter weather arrives

Dear friends and neighbors, 

If you stepped outside at any point in the last week to take a breath of the autumn air, you probably felt the decisive chill moving into our region: a sign that the cold, wet winter season isn’t too far behind.

Since 2016, during those winter nights when temperatures dip dangerously low, the Joint Office of Homeless Services has offered “no-turn-away” severe weather shelter beds: a vital, life-saving resource for people living outside. As winter approaches, we're making plans to again offer our neighbors experiencing homelessness a warm place to go.

This year, because of the safety measures we need to take to keep people as safe as possible from COVID-19, we are unable to use the same shelter sites that we’ve relied on in the past. That means we can’t guarantee a severe weather shelter bed to everyone who needs it on the worst nights of the year.

But that can change. It has to.

Yesterday afternoon, my County and City colleagues and I joined together to ask the community for leads on spaces, public or private, that could potentially be used as severe weather shelters. We’ve already begun reaching out to our partners, but we are asking community members to help us, too. A description of the kind of spaces that the Joint Office needs can be found here.

With (hopefully) more shelter spaces, we’re going to need more volunteers to greet and care for our shelter residents. And with so many people struggling right now, we will need more in-kind donations of items that can help keep our neighbors safe, warm and dry throughout the winter months. 

Please don’t wait until temperatures drop to contribute. Cold weather gear, and even your personal commitment to volunteer at a future shelter site, are incredibly helpful to have ahead of time. 

Head to 211info.org/donations to find out exactly what items we need. You can even donate from your phone, thanks to online shopping lists — an option that is both convenient and sensible during a pandemic. And if you’re interested in committing to volunteer your time, please visit tprojects.org.

Crises often reveal the character of a community. And as a lifelong Multnomah County resident, I’ve seen our community come together in trying times. This has never been more true than in the ways we have shown up for our neighbors time and again throughout this difficult year. 

I am confident that we can, and will, step up yet again for our neighbors. 

Please stay safe and stay healthy,

Deborah Kafoury
Multnomah County Chair

Making voting easier and our democracy stronger

Voter holding ballot next to Multnomah County ballot drop boxMultnomah County voters have been casting their ballots at a record rate! The voter turnout as of Friday at 3:45 p.m. was 64.83%. For some context, during the 2016 General Election season, Multnomah County didn’t reach 60% turnout until the day before the election.

This is what participation in our democracy can look like when voting is made more accessible through intentional outreach, language support, robust voter services, free postage and dozens of drop sites — exactly what Multnomah County and our Elections division has provided this election season. While some jurisdictions in other states have made it harder for people to vote, Multnomah County has worked to strengthen our democracy by expanding accessibility and making it easier to vote. 

I’m sure most of you have seen pictures or videos of people in other parts of the country waiting in line for hours to vote. Those Americans have every right to vote through a safe and accessible system that they can feel as proud of as Multnomah County residents do in ours. The way we vote here should be the standard across the country, not the exception.

Multnomah County believes that anyone who is eligible to vote should have the information, and the access, to use their voice. I am deeply proud of all our County Elections staff who have worked tirelessly to make voting accessible and safe during a pandemic. It’s because of their work and dedication that our entire community can have full confidence in the integrity of our elections as we head toward Election Day. 

If you are still holding onto your ballot, please be sure to drop it off at an Official Ballot Drop Site before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3.