Dear Friends and Neighbors,
There are few things more important to this community than the work we’re doing to address homelessness. This month, I was pleased to update key partners in these efforts on several recent initiatives, and leaders from the Joint Office of Homeless Services and my staff also had the opportunity to brief our board on our strategies - negotiated with Metro - to spend unspent Supportive Housing Services dollars.
The good news is that our focus on urgency and accountability is yielding results. We’re getting more money into the community today and at a faster rate than ever before. And we’re working collaboratively at the state, regional, city, and provider levels – and especially in consultation with our Board – to make sure our investments will have the most significant, most effective impact on the chronic homelessness that too many of our neighbors are experiencing. This includes focusing on capacity building for providers, providing new resources for housing placements, and expanding our shelter systems.
But this work is about people. And our initiatives, like Housing Multnomah Now, are starting to show tangible results in people’s lives, helping bring new resources to folks like Jessica, who became homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the pandemic hit, Jessica had been working as a massage therapist. She had recently started a construction company, and both areas of work were hit hard by difficulties that so many community members faced in 2020. She found herself beginning to spiral downward because she “lost everything.”
In the past, Jessica says she’s gotten “the runaround” when it came to finding housing. She said being homeless and unemployed left her feeling “stuck in a rut, where you don't feel like you're worthy of anything anymore.” Now, as a result of Housing Multnomah Now, she’s in the process of being housed. Through regular meetings with her case manager, Jessica is just days away from housing. She’s excited to move back into housing, and hopes to find work that uses the degree in criminal justice she earned before becoming homeless. “This is a good opportunity for people to get the help that they need,” she said.
Housing Multnomah Now is yielding tangible results, and I am grateful Jessica has shared her story with us.
Housing and Homelessness
Metro Action Plan
This plan, negotiated in detail with Metro, is targeted to spend down the approximately $58 million in remaining funds the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners allocated for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Measures developed in the plan include the expansion of programs, accelerated timelines around many initiatives, additional investments in wage increases and other capacity-building measures for our partner agencies, and increased reporting. The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners was briefed on this plan last week and will take action on it later this summer.
Primary Investment Strategies:
- Capacity building for providers: short- and long-term investments in the agencies and workforce necessary to deliver on the Supportive Housing Services (SHS) measure
- Housing Placement, Retention, and Employment Supports: continuing investments in housing placement and retention and expanding employment supports for income and housing stability
- Safety on and off the streets: shelter expansion aligned with the Local Implementation Plan and County values, and strategic capital investments for emergency responses for unsheltered
- Sustainability: meeting required reserves and contingencies, and reserves for future liabilities
Agreement with City of Portland
The City-County joint agreement around the Joint Office was approved for another year with the addition of milestone markers for continuous engagement over the next six months and an evaluation of further partnership set for December 2023.
I believe that passage of our agreement will provide new accountability in the work of the Joint Office, protect Multnomah County from legal issues, preserve the self-governance we require, and give us additional time to continue to build trust and collaboration in our joint efforts to address homelessness.
Partnership with City of Portland
Beyond the intergovernmental agreement, the Joint Office and the city are working through additional funding and programming agreements, ranging from shelter expansion to domestic violence services. This also includes the signed contract with Sunderland Safe Rest Village to open and begin operations, and our preview last week of the first of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s temporary alternative shelter sites (TASS), where I was pleased to speak about the ways services and shelter will come together to support people leaving homelessness for housing.
The Joint Office is working with outside assistance to conduct a coordinated evaluation of its operations, processes, and outcomes, in coordination with staff and community partners. Initial findings are expected later this summer, and will incorporate models and best practices from other parts of the county.
Transparency & DataIn order to provide better transparency and data, the JOHS website is designed for more straightforward navigation and interactive updates. Next, we’ll incorporate feedback from a data task force I convened to improve our new dashboard further.
Deputy Chief of Staff
Tabitha most recently served as Deputy Director at New Avenues for Youth, a nonprofit organization providing basic needs and housing support for homeless and at-risk youth in Multnomah & Clackamas counties. She concurrently worked as lead faculty and facilitator for the Oregon ECHO Network at OHSU for the Whole-Person Care for Children and Youth in Foster Care series. Tabitha previously worked as a self-employed healthcare innovation consultant and strategist and served as the Executive Director of Teen Feed. A former high-school dropout from east Portland, Tabitha now considers herself a fervent lifelong learner. She earned a BA and MBA from Marylhurst University and is a graduate of the NW Public Health Leadership Institute at the UW School of Public Health. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tabitha moved to Oregon with her family in the mid-1980s. She is the proud parent of an adult stepdaughter, is an avid cyclist, and lives with her partner and three spoiled dogs.
The death and destruction caused by fentanyl and polysubstance abuse is heartbreaking and unacceptable. We are experiencing a drug wave unlike anything we’ve seen since the meth crisis twenty years ago, and this new drug is cheaper, more prevalent, and more deadly. As a result, we at Multnomah County are reexamining our strategies and approaches.
To date, we’ve prioritized outreach, stabilization, treatment, and sobering. The Health Department runs 18 prevention programs, 27 harm reduction programs, 13 treatment programs, and seven focused on recovery. We distribute more than 50,000 naloxone kits a year. We fully fund the Behavioral Health Resource Center to serve 100 people each day and transition them into a 33-bed shelter or 19-bed bridge-to-housing facility. And we’re incorporating what works into new, multi-year strategies that include our partners in health care, government, and our safety systems.
Importantly, we’re also launching the next phase in constructing an effective Behavioral Health Emergency Crisis Network (BHECN), which will aim to build an effective continuum of care for those suffering from addiction. This phase will help us expand, improve, or develop new services, including crisis and stabilization care, residential and outpatient treatment, peer recovery support services, and shelter and transitional housing.
This step will give us the authority to add, expand and improve the services essential to a functional behavioral health crisis system. These services will be designed in partnership with other jurisdictions and funding partners to improve pathways into care and create a strategic plan that will improve behavioral health crisis response and the entire behavioral health system.
I am committed to seeing the work of BHECN move forward, urgently and directly. Following conversations with the BHECN Executive Committee members and the Mayor’s Office, I am now leading the BHECN Executive Committee. While I am not a subject matter expert on behavioral health, I bring strong experience in helping system initiatives like BHECN gain consensus and develop into meaningful action. I look forward to convening this group as we identify our major services investments.
In November 2022, Multnomah County voters approved a measure that requires County commissioners to conduct at least one additional inspection of jails administered by the Sheriff’s Office per calendar year. It also mandates at least one volunteer member of the public accompany the Board during the inspection..
If you or anyone you know is interested in joining the Board for our next inspection, please apply here. The application period is open until September 15th, 2023.
Currently, Multnomah County’s Inverness Jail and Detention Center undergo oversight evaluations and recommendations provided by the Board of County Commissioners, as well as the annual Corrections Grand Jury process (facilitated by the District Attorney’s Office and conducted independently by Multnomah County residents), and the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association inspections and audits. Other organizations, such as Disability Rights Oregon, also have oversight authority and help guide policies and practices.
The additional County Board inspection with public involvement will add an additional layer of oversight and help ensure that our Multnomah County correctional facilities are operating in a safe, transparent, and accountable manner.
Sauvie Island Bridge Renaming
In November 2022, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution to consider the renaming the Sauvie Island Bridge to honor the Indigenous communities whose traditional home includes the island. The resolution acknowledges that Sauvie Island was home to more than 2,000 Indigenous people and 15 villages.
A Bridge Renaming Council has been established and three tribes are currently serving on the council, charged with conducting cultural research, leading tribal engagement activities, and identifying a new name for the bridge. The council’s recommendation to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners is expected sometime in late summer 2023.
If you’d like to provide input to the board during this renaming process, please fill out the contact form here.
Design the Northwest Library!
Northwest Library will be a renovated building on a new site, moving from a leased space to NW Pettygrove Street. Our project team wants your feedback to help design the new Northwest Library. Share your ideas and excitement for the future of this new location!
- Sunday, July 30, 2023, 1:30 pm - 4 pm
Northwest Library: 2300 NW Thurman St. Portland, OR
- ASL, Chinese, and Spanish interpretation will be available. Free books will be offered.
Design the Belmont Library!
As one of the busiest libraries, Belmont Library is growing to support the community — we’d love your input to help shape the design of the future building. Together, we’ll co-create an accessible, vibrant, and welcoming library for the Belmont community. Learn more about the future of Belmont Library and meet the building design team at an upcoming open house.
- Thursday, August 3, 2023, 5:00 - 8:00 pm
Belmont Library: 1038 SE César E. Chávez Boulevard, Portland, OR.
- On-demand language interpretation will be available. Free books and snacks will be offered.
We are looking for input on building size for the Belmont Library's expansion. Here are the links to a short survey in Chinese, English, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The survey will also be available in person at Belmont Library until August 3.
Reclaiming Black Joy Events
Please come spread the joy with me and the Multnomah County REACH team at one of the several upcoming Reclaiming Black Joy events. Everyone is welcome! This park-based cultural activation and creative placemaking initiative reclaims space and counters negative experiences by spreading joy and love through music, dancing, art, and more!
Please check out the REACH Facebook page for more info, and share this information with your community.
Join the Behavioral Health Resource Center (BHRC) Advisory Council
The Behavioral Health Resource Center (BHRC) is dedicated to meeting the needs of people with mental health and substance use challenges who may also live outside. The BHRC offers immediate supportive services, vital peer support, links to behavioral health services and treatment options, short-term shelter, and transitional housing.
Applications for membership on the Behavioral Health Resource Center (BHRC) Advisory Council are now open. The Advisory Council is made up of peers, people with lived experience with houselessness and/or mental health challenges, and others who contribute their voices toward this innovative project. The Advisory Council plays a vital role in reviewing and advising BHRC programs. Members help ensure the consistency of services for program participants and provide recommendations on strategic initiatives, policies, processes, and procedures.
The Advisory Council is currently looking for:
- Culturally-specific providers
- First responders