The ongoing violence in the region hits communities of color the hardest as documented by recent reporting. This violence is driven by the sustained levels of instability, primarily in finances, housing and health, and most recently driven by the latest crisis to hit our communities, the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is needed is a massive and rapid increase to the infinitesimally small investments made thus far in communities of color in our region.
This is a call to action.
Community-based organizations need increased local, county, regional, state and federal investments to hire more community workers to work with youth and families to create alternatives to violence and help youth and families find jobs, secure housing and build wealth. These investments need to be sustainable and multi-year to create consistency and sustainability rather than one-off investments or year-to-year uncertainty.
Additional funding for direct assistance to community members impacted by violence is critical. Funding is needed to get families to safe locations, pay rent and health care costs for victims of violence who are often under-insured.
Lastly, we need a multi-jurisdictional approach as violence does not respect boundaries. We propose a Joint Office of Violence Prevention with community and jurisdictional leadership.
Multnomah County Health Department Director Ebony Clarke got it exactly right at a recent meeting of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council — we need to address root causes and focus on the communities hit hardest, and that is communities of color. Her presentation also highlighted the need for more resources for this important work at the county.
Multnomah County is doing its part through these and other community-centered investments but the county and the region are severely limited in their ability to respond to this crisis. The city of Portland needs to increase its investments in this work. The state and the federal government need to step up and invest directly in communities of color who are being hit the hardest by the violence, and community-based organizations are best positioned to jump start this effort, immediately and on an ongoing basis.
The time for these visionary investments is now.
Tony DeFalco is executive director of the Latino Network. Paul Lumley is chief executive officer of the Native American Youth & Family Center. Joe McFerrin II is president and chief executive officer of the POIC. Marcus C. Mundy is executive director of the Coalition of Communities of Color.
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