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Precisely how an emergency declaration would work in Oregon is not clear. Gov. Brown typically issues such declarations - for instance when the state is hit with winter storms or wildfires - as a way to free up resources to address the issue.

BRADLEY W. PARKS/OPB - House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-N/NE Portland, addresses the Oregon House of Representatives on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019..Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek says Oregon's crisis of unsheltered homelessness has reached emergency status.

So as she prepares to push an ambitious funding proposal in next month's legislative session, the Portland Democrat is mulling a remarkable option: A statewide emergency declaration that would allow cities around the state to more easily site homeless shelters.

"This is an ongoing crisis," Kotek said. "We know it's there, and the state's got to step up and help our local communities deal with it."

Kotek is currently researching what it would take for Oregon to declare a state of emergency, and what the outcomes could be, she said. Her hope is that the entire state could follow the lead of Portland, which in 2015 declared a housing emergency that allowed city agencies and nonprofit providers to more easily put homeless shelters on plots of land not zoned for such a use.

"That's what I would be recommending," Kotek said. "I don't want them to get hung up on traditional zoning and site permitting when they need to get a shelter established."

Oregon Public Broadcasting is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. You can find their full story here.


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