A Portland nonprofit announced the filing of an initiative petition on Friday, March 25, that would require governments in the tri-county region to direct a majority of voter-approved homeless services funds to emergency shelters.
The filing was announced by People for Portland, an advocacy group that is pressuring elected officials to reduce homelessness and clean up the region. The name of the petition is Everyone Deserves Safe Shelter.
The petition would place a measure on the November 2022 election ballot within the boundaries of Metro, the elected regional government, where voters approved a supportive services measure in 2020. It imposes a 1% income tax on higher earners to fund homeless services. The proposed measure would redirect 75% of that funding to the "construction, maintenance and operation of safe, sanitary emergency shelters."
The distribution would continue until the number of shelter beds meets each county's homeless population or until the city can enforce anti-camping rules, according to the proposal.
The measure also would require cities to enforce their own anti-camping ordinances to be eligible for long-term funding, require an annual audit of all spending, and seek to prevent conflicts of interest on the oversight board.
An oversight member of Portland Police Bureau's Focused Intervention Team is a co-sponsor of the petition.
"The current system needs a radical and immediate shift to save our community. We have grown numb to the struggles of so many people living on the streets. Having a place to live safely, that is clean and without the threat of hunger, drugs, rape, and violence ought to be the standard, not the option. And I believe we have the resources so that everyone can live, work and thrive here," said Kimberely Dixon of Northeast Portland.
Supporters will have to gather 44,765 valid Metro voter signatures to place the measure on the 2022 general election ballot.
People for Portland said its polling found majority support in all three counties and across partisan lines to prioritize existing funding for safe shelters (74%) and to require people currently living on the streets to use shelters when available (59%). Separate polls conducted for the Portland Business Alliance also show overwhelming public support to require people currently living outside to sleep in shelters or designated camping areas (83%).
People for Portland is a political advocacy group seeking to reduce homelessness and clean up the region. It does not have to reveal its donors but is believed to be supported by business interests.
The initiative petition can be found here.
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