Homeless advocates denounce emergency shelter shift
The coalition of homeless advocates that helped pass Metro's supportive services measure has denounced an initiative petition to redirect 75% of the funding to emergency shelters and enforce outdoor camping bans.
Metro voters passed a 1% income tax on higher earners in 2020. The elected regional government's ballot measure was supported by the HereTogether coalition. A ballot measure drive to prioritize shelters and camping bans was announced by People for Portland, an advocacy organization pressuring elected officials to move faster to end the homeless crisis, on Friday, March 25.
HereTogether responded with a lengthy statement that criticized the proposed measure as "outdated" on Tuesday, March 29.
"People for Portland's proposed ballot measure is a deeply misguided attempt to take away 75% of voter-approved funding for comprehensive and effective solutions to homelessness — including mental health and addiction services, affordable housing, and case management — in favor of a shelters-only approach that has failed us time and again," the statement said.
According to the statement, the Metro measure already mitigated the homeless crisis between July and December 2021 by:
• Contributing to over 1,600 new shelter beds
• Preventing more than 1,400 families from being evicted
• Collecting 1.2 million pounds of trash
The information came from Metro's website. The statement said the benefits will increase as the Metro funds continue to be collected and spent.
"The Supportive Housing Services measure is a dedicated investment in data-driven, proven, permanent solutions while also increasing the number of short-term shelter beds. That work is scaling up now. Draining its funds for a bound-to-fail, shelters-only approach would be an incredible disservice to those who are receiving help and those who still need help — as well as all of us who want to see the Portland region's homeless crisis come to an end," the statement said.
In response, People for Portland issued a statement that said, "How can so-called homeless advocates call people dying on our streets an 'effective solution'? The current approach is a humanitarian failure that puts people at risk of violence, rape, and death each night. The first step toward stable housing should be safe shelter â€“ not risking your life sleeping on the streets. It's time to stop rationalizing failure, provide safe shelter to everyone who needs it and bring an end to the deadly camping in public places. Defenders of the status quo are not telling the truth. This proposal will not only provide funding for emergency shelters, but it ensures more than $60 million a year is available for addiction, mental health and other supportive services."
Initiative supporters will have to gather around 60,000 valid Metro voter signatures by Sept. 8 to place the measure on the 2022 general election ballot.
HereTogether is a nonprofit corporation filed in June 2018. It lists hundreds of organizations and supporters on its website here. A political action committee with the same name spent around $1.4 million to pass Measure 26-210 at the May 2020 primary election.
A previous Portland Tribune story on the issue can be found here.
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