Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This has been an exciting month of hearing from the community around Multnomah County’s FY 2024 budget priorities following the release of my Executive Budget and State of the County address (you can catch the entire State of the County event here, or read a recap here.)
Than you to everyone who’s come out in person or given virtual testimony about their priorities for our budget. This budget is designed to make significant impacts, especially in the priority areas of homelessness, health and safety, infrastructure, and our continued investments in community partnership and sustainability, and I appreciate those who have shared their input.
We will have one final hybrid public budget hearing on May 31st, in the Multnomah County board room, and would love for you to submit testimony or come and testify in person.
Senior Policy Advisor on Housing and Homelessness
Raised in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, Stacy moved to Oregon in 2001. She holds a dual Bachelor of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology from the University of Oregon, and a Master’s of Social Work from Portland State University. She volunteered with New Roads Homeless Youth Drop-In Center in Eugene, Oregon, before moving to Multnomah County in 2005 to work the overnight shift at Jean’s Place, a shelter for women experiencing homelessness. Stacy brings two decades of experience working alongside and in service to people experiencing homelessness and housing instability. Her scope of past work includes direct services; program development, design, implementation, and evaluation; strategic planning and vision setting; executive-level leadership; and community engagement. She has advised national and local audiences engaged in ending homelessness and increasing housing stability.
Director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services
Dan Field comes to the work of the Joint Office after spending a long and productive two decades at Kaiser Permanente and, before that, worked for former Governor John Kitzhaber and as chief of staff for former Portland Mayor Vera Katz. Dan has experience leveraging state and federal healthcare dollars for housing and has built strong relationships with providers, neighbors, community members and business leaders. His focus on building partnerships and funding opportunities around high-stakes issues has been a big part of his strategic leadership journey, including playing a lead role at Kaiser in founding Health Share of Oregon, the breakthrough collaboration between local healthcare systems and Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties to coordinate healthcare for 400,000 metro-area residents on the Oregon Health Plan.
Plus, listen to this special issue of the JOHS podcast – an interview with Dan Field!
Update on the Joint Office of Homeless Services
I’m committed to setting priorities and focus for the Joint Office under new leadership. This includes increasing the urgency and impact of efforts to address the humanitarian crisis on our streets, improving the efficacy of our continuum of care, and putting more specific accountability measures in place that ensure money, time, and effort invested in reducing homelessness and increasing housing stability is effective and strategic.
In response to unspent Supportive Housing Services dollars in our third quarter (January - March), I’m working with staff and leadership on the Board of County Commissioners and other jurisdictional partners to identify short-term opportunities to spend SHS dollars consistent with program objectives. We’re also convening key Joint Office-contracted service providers in June to identify barriers and impediments to service delivery and engaging a consultant with national expertise to advise on organizational and structural changes to improve service delivery.
And in the longer term, Director Field, Mayor Wheeler, the Joint Office staff, and I are determined to improve many operating procedures around our work. These changes will include system-wide vision mapping, clearer performance benchmarks across all funding sources, better baselines for service delivery, timely problem-solving and corrective action planning, refined contracting policies and procedures, more complete organizational assessments of Joint Office divisions and intentional and true partnership between our offices, the Joint Office, and our community to increase proactive and productive visioning and implementation. I will also increase transparency around implementation by sharing a quarterly letter that addresses the progress of issues of highest priority, as well as providing updates in this newsletter. I know that the more transparent the process, the more will be possible in creating effective and long-lasting solutions to our community’s needs.
Preschool for All Updates
Multnomah County has invested upstream to prioritize universal preschool by 2030 to create a two-generation solution that we’re already seeing pay dividends. Because we know our investments in early childhood education pay this community back many times over in educational achievement and stability, with every $1 spent today resulting in $7 in future savings.
The measure we passed in 2020 to fund Multnomah County’s universal preschool program, is already serving more than 700 families this school year. And in this year’s proposed budget, we’ll be doubling our number of available preschool slots in the 2023-24 school year, offering 1,400 that go on a priority basis to those families we can impact the most. And it was a priority to add more than $17 million dollars of capital to the Preschool for All Facilities Fund to help build infrastructure to make sure we can deliver on this promise. These dollars fund infrastructure projects for home-based providers, child care centers, non-profit organizations, and school districts. We’re also thoughtful of who benefits from these investments. Providers who have had the least access to capital will be prioritized.
If you’re interested, you can apply here for a spot this fall – through May 31st! Families choose up to six participating preschools, including in centers, schools, or licensed home-based care. And don’t worry – applications will open again for waitlist spots on a rolling basis this summer.
Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health Awareness month is a chance for us to celebrate and honor those who have been directly impacted by behavioral health challenges and bring their powerful stories of resilience to our communities. There is strength in coming together to address stigma and to remind people that they are not alone. When we think about safe and stable communities, I know Multnomah County has a vital role to play as our state’s largest safety-net provider and that this is a role and responsibility we do not take lightly – one that positions us to truly address and provide mental wellness for the thousands of people who connect with our services each year.
Recognizing May 2023 as Mental Health Awareness Month brings attention to those challenges and, this year, focuses on “safety and stability” in all aspects of life. Every Multnomah County resident deserves to have their basic needs met, including a safe place to rest their heads, food, shelter, and health care. Every Multnomah County resident deserves to live with stability, secure in knowing where they will be on any given night and how they will get the care they need. For more information, please see this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month proclamation.
As we wrap up this month of advocacy, I want to thank the many mental and behavioral health professionals, providers and advocates who work so diligently and with such heart on behalf of our communities every day. And if you’re seeking resources at any time, this video has some to share.
I so enjoyed the opportunity to attend not one but two fabulous events in North and Northeast Portland in April and May, including ground-breaking ceremonies at the Albina and North Portland Multnomah County Libraries.
Albina Library Groundbreaking
On April 26th, I attended the Multnomah County Library ceremonial groundbreaking at Albina Library, located in a historically Black neighborhood in NE Portland, along with many county and community leaders. As with so many of the library groundbreakings I’ve attended this year, I was impressed by the process to center community input, to learn what would welcome, engage, and affirm Albina Library neighbors and Black community members in this new space. As the mom of teenagers, I especially appreciated the engagement with young people to yield innovative teen spaces through the paid teen program YODA.
With a growth of four times its current size, Albina Library is scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2024 as one of Multnomah County’s largest libraries. The 30,000-square-foot expansion will help the library grow with the community while keeping the historic Carnegie exterior on Knott Street. During construction, the library encourages patrons to visit the libraries closest to them and use the many online services on the library’s website. The library will share additional updates about services on its construction closures page.
Learn more about the Albina Library expansion at: https://multcolib.org/expanded-albina-library
North Portland Library Groundbreaking
The North Portland Library has long been the library home to the Black community in Portland. Insights from the North Portland community have guided the vision and purpose for the new Black Cultural Center, and this renovation, which broke ground on May 19th, will create an opportunity for connection and a celebration of Blackness through art, materials, and space that directly represents the community. North Portland Library will be renovated and expanded, adding 1,500 square feet for a total of 10,200 square feet of space to highlight the diversity and history of the community. The design preserves the historic Carnegie building on Killingsworth Street while providing more significant space for community gatherings in the new Black Cultural Center.
I believe that libraries are more than books – they’re an investment in the cultural life of our communities. North Portland Library has such history and presence within the County library system and its neighborhood, standing adjacent to the Jefferson High School campus and providing a space for gathering, reading, and community-building. The chance to do these upgrades, built with input from many stakeholders, shows how we’re successfully centering a process that produces spaces by and for the community. I can’t wait to visit in the fall of 2024!
Learn more at: https://multcolib.org/expanded-north-portland-library