The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on June 8 unanimously approved a one-year extension of their agreement with the City of Portland that allows for the continuation of the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
The City and County formed the Joint Office of Homeless Services in 2016 to coordinate their delivery of services to people experiencing homelessness. Even though the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to promote the office into a full-fledged County department in response to its growing resources and urgent work, it continues to be a multi-jurisdictional agency.
The Joint Office receives funding from multiple government agencies: the County, the City, Metro (through the Supportive Housing Services Measure), the State of Oregon, and the federal government. The City of Portland’s general fund provides roughly 15% of the Joint Office’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget.
“Understanding the urgency of the issue, we want to commence communications quickly and set a goal to review records by Dec. 1, and make a decision in that timeframe about whether to continue a longer term partnership with the City,” said Chris Fick, chief of staff for Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “We have commitment to work on the issues together, and there's no bigger issue before us now than homelessness.”
“I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the solid working relationship we have with the Mayor and his team. As the Mayor often notes, we’re in constant communication,” Fick said.
Mayor Ted Wheeler spoke before the board in favor of the contract extension, praising increased coordination between the City and County, but explaining that the City will require increased transparency and accountability in order to continue the Joint Office beyond the one-year extension.
“It is time for our two governments to double down on our partnership, bringing our strengths, our responsibilities, and our respective streams of funding to the table to address the humanitarian crisis that we're seeing today,” Wheeler said.
“I want to thank you again, Chair, for your leadership on this issue. We appreciate your collaboration,” Wheeler added, noting that his senior policy advisor on homelessness “works almost daily with your chief of staff. I want to reflect how much I appreciate the closeness of that partnership. It’s my hope that as we move forward and address specific issues, we will come out of this with a much stronger partnership.”
Before coming to the Board of Commissioners for approval, the contract extension was approved by the Portland City Council on May 31. Both City and County leadership approved several changes to the contract that require the Joint Office to outline its progress reducing homelessness in Multnomah County, with an agreement to review that progress and determine the long-term future of the office by December 2023.
The City Council added an amendment to the extension that would have required City Council to approve the entire Joint Office budget, not just the amount and use of its own contributions as it can do now. The contract approved by County commissioners removed that provision.
Chair Vega Pederson expressed support for extension of the intergovernmental agreement (IGA), especially its focus on increased transparency and coordination.
“Like the City, I want the Joint Office to support measurable goals and key performance indicators, and I’m glad this IGA includes them,” she said. “I’m supportive of this document’s explicit demands for coordination and collaboration, and I’m very happy with what we’re putting forward today.”