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Funding committed for homeless plan

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PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JAIME VALDEZ - Homeless campers are increasingly visible in Old Town/Chinatown and other parts of Portland.Portland, Gresham, and Multnomah County leaders tentatively signed off on a plan for spending $30 million to reduce homelessness by 50 percent by 2019 or perhaps 2020.

The next step is for the Portland City Council to approve $20 million and the Multnomah County Commission Board of Directors to approve $10 million to fund the plan in the budgets that take effect on July 1 of this year.

Previous plans, such as the 10-year Plan to End Homelessness, have not achieved their goals, however.

The new plan was developed by A Home for Everyone, a collaborative effort begun last year by the city and council with the goal of cutting homelessness in half. According to the group’s director, Marc Jolin, the plan approved Friday would do that by the end of its third year.

“This is going to make a significant difference,” said Mayor Charlie Hales, who sits on the group’s Executive Committee. Other elected officials at the meeting, which took place at City Hall, included Commissioner Dan Saltzman, Gresham City Counselor Karylinn Echols, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, and Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey.

The plan calls for spending the money as follows:

• $12.5 million to place homeless in housing.

• $10 million to build more affordable housing.

• $5 million to expand and operate shelter services.

• $2.5 million to prevent people from becoming homeless.

The spending priorities were set by the group’s Coordinating Board, which includes representatives of regional governments, social service agencies, housing providers, shelter operators, health care providers, and others. They ranked more than 35 potential investment priorities in three categories: Placement and Retention, Prevention, and Safety Off the Streets. The $30 million is only enough to fund the top priorities in each category.

The semi-annual homeless count commissioned by the city and county identified 3,801 homeless people on Jan. 28, 2015. The count found that 1,887 people were unsheltered, 872 people were sleeping in an emergency shelter, and 1,042 were sleeping in transitional housing. Although the total was roughly the same as the last count in 2013, it included a 15 percent increase in homeless women, a 24 percent increase in homeless families with children, and a 48 percent increase in unsheltered African Americans. The number of chronically homeless people declined by 17 percent, however, and the number of homeless veterans declined by 24 percent.

The plan approved Friday prioritizes serving minorities and women. It envisions placing 1,350 homeless people in housing, preventing 1,000 people from becoming homeless, and creating 650 new shelter and alternative beds. Those results are projected to cut homelessness by 50 percent within a reasonable amount of time after the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

The City Council committed to including $20 million in next year’s budget about the time it approved the housing state of emergency in October. Hales has directed general fund bureaus to identify 5 percent reductions their upcoming budget submission to help come up with the money. Kafoury says she is just beginning to identify how to fund the county’s $10 million share.

According to Saltzman, the $30 million will be spent by such agencies as the Portland Housing Bureau, the county Department of Human Services, and Home Forward, which was formerly known as the Portland Housing Authority. It is in addition to $20 million in urban renewal funds the city has committed to mitigating the effects of gentrification in North and Northeast Portland, and an additional $67 million the city will have available for affordable housing over the next 10 years after the council recently raised the urban renewal “set aside” commitment from 30 to 45 percent.

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