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This time, says Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury, a local effort to drastically cut the number of homeless people will succeed.


Kafoury and Marc Jolin, head of a city-county housing initiative, have been meeting with members of the local media to build public support and momentum for a $30 million boost in spending on housing and services in the area. They face plenty of challenges in the initiative, which Kafoury ticks off one by one: skyrocketing rents. Low housing vacancy rates. Stagnant wages.

Economically, she says, “We’ve got these tidal waves coming at us.”

There’s another challenge: recent history.

In 2004, as part of a federal-led effort, the city and county launched what was dubbed "A 10-year plan to end homelessness in Portland and Multnomah County.”

Officials say it connected 12,500 people with housing. But more than a decade later, despite greater funding and focus, the number of people without housing in the county hasn’t noticeably changed, Kafoury acknowledges. The latest figures are about 4,000 people who are homeless and about 1,880 who were found sleeping without shelter during a homeless count in January, according to Jolin.

The goal this time around: to cut those numbers in half by 2017, they say.

Given that the previous effort did not end homelessness, Kafoury is aware that the public may be skeptical of the latest one. But she says the latest effort will benefit from better technology, a broader coalition, and an increased focus on shelters to help homeless people find a safe place to escape the elements.

The effort received a major boost in September when Mayor Charlie Hales, then running for reelection, declared a housing emergency and joined with Kafoury to commit to spending $30 million in the coming year, with $20 million coming from the city. The funding will support a city-county plan launched under her processor, Jeff Cogen: A Home for Everyone: a United Community Plan to End Homelessness for Portland/Multnomah County.

Among its features:

• A push to find housing for 690 homeless veterans by the end of the year.

• More shelters and transitional campgrounds

• Improve health care

• Make services more mobile.

Jolin, a longtime housing activist, says there's been a lot of talk in the public sphere, "Do we have a plan, do we have a strategy?"

He says the detailed actions plans prepared by the leaders of the A Home for Everyone initiative should settle the question. "It goes beyond what we did in the ten year plan and builds on it... It addresses a wider range of issues."

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