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Despite tax measure, regional government hasn't measured progress on Portland area shelter solutions

The status quo of our regional direction under Metro is not acceptable. Metro is responsible for the $2.5 billion homeless service bond, over a 10-year period, that the region approved in May 2020. As of today, we do not have a clear regional plan nor a commitment to measure outcomes. If we do not change current Metro leadership, our region will be spending $200 million dollars a year without a process to measure the problem and determine if less people are living on sidewalks.

Metro can play and should play many roles in addressing homelessness. It can start with leadership that advocates for interim shelters as well as permanent affordable housing. Metro can elevate discussions about access to mental health and drug addiction recovery services. And it needs to be a regional convener of all perspectives, including the private sector, to address the crisis.

Metro can start with a central database to document how many shelter beds are in the region, where they are located, and how many are used. We can use this data to build a simple mobile app to tell providers or houseless individuals where they can find an open bed that evening. (Right now, the only way to get this information is to call each shelter every night.) This is not only ineffective; it makes what should be relatively straightforward unnecessarily complicated.

Metro needs to convene our homeless service providers that are out working with the individuals living on the sidewalks. This is not happening right now. Metro leadership can bring together the critical professionals doing amazing work directly with homeless individuals to understand what approaches and programs are working well and some that may not have an impact. With this critical information, Metro and the regional partners will know how to best invest the bond revenues. Absent this collaboration of providers and transparent data, we will not know if our regional investment is helping individuals no longer live on sidewalks

Our region is at a critical point right now. Current Metro leadership can choose to collaborate, convene and provide a vision or perpetuate the status quo alone.

Alisa Pyszka is a candidate for Metro Council president in the May 2022 election.


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