Dear friends and neighbors,

This time of year often gets me thinking about what we have here in Multnomah County. It makes me think about home.

Maybe it’s because my children spend more time at the house during the holidays, or maybe its because it’s a time to get together with friends and family and take stock of the year’s events and look to the future.

When I look back on the last few years, I realize that my time at Multnomah County has shown me that the community I grew up in is stronger than I ever knew before.

It’s true that we face challenging times. A third of us can’t afford the basic things in life: food, housing and medicine. And while we grow as a community, we face challenges that come with that growth, and the real prospect that the gains won’t be shared fairly.

And unfortunately, Washington, D.C. isn’t helping.

Then I look around me and realize that here at home, we have a community spirit that allows us to tackle anything head on. Everywhere I go, I talk to people who want to know how to help. How can they be part of improving the place they live.

It might be hard, and it might take new ideas. But we’re ready to face it -- together.

We are committed to being a part of something here, and we’re committed to making a difference. And when a county has that, it’s bigger than a dividing line on a map. It’s a community.

And so I think about what I can do to ensure that my children inherit a place that looks like this when they grow up: something that they will cherish and nurture like all of us have.

If you want to get involved in the work we do at Multnomah County, you can find resources and opportunities online. If you have the time to give, thank you.


Deborah Kafoury

Home for the Holidays: help families with a hand up from shelter

Chair Deborah Kafoury speaks during the kickoff of the Home for the Holidays campaign Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

For too many families biding their time in shelter in Multnomah County, the path to stability, hope and independence just isn’t clear. Housing prices are high, and units close to schools and jobs, and with enough bedrooms, are difficult to find.

That’s why, this holiday season, Chair Kafoury and other leaders in Multnomah County and Portland have launched a campaign to help. It’s called “Home for the Holidays” and they’re inviting rental property owners, property managers and neighbors to take part by offering up enough units so dozens more families can leave shelter this winter for a home of their own.

“We’re here today with landlords who are committed to working with us to help families break through the barriers that are keeping them in our shelter,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “Let’s make sure that this Christmas is the last Christmas that these families spend in a homeless shelter.”


Community health workers graduate from new Asian Health and Service Center training

Multnomah County recently partnered with the Asian Health and Services Center to host the first ever Asian specific community health worker training.

Community health workers help build stronger links between families, health care systems and the services that families most need to thrive. They are trusted community members who work to promote health through outreach, education and deep relationships.

Chair Kafoury and Commissioner Sharon Meieran participated in a portion of the month-long training where cohort members sat in small groups engaging in strategy development around policies that impact the health and wellbeing of Oregon residents, particularly those in the Asian community.  

“The ideas flowed together to create a clear demand for a stronger, healthier community,” Chair Kafoury said during the cohort’s graduation ceremony earlier this month. “The passion was clear and I felt hopeful for our future.”

Multnomah County has been supporting community health worker training and mentoring for more than 25 years. But there has been an increasing need for culturally centered programs and services that help reduce entrenched health disparities, especially in communities of color.

Multnomah County believes that by investing in community-driven programs like the community health worker training, we’re investing in the success of the entire community.

After training, community health workers often pursue careers in health systems, public health programs as well as opportunities within local community organizations.

Severe weather plan for homeless stresses early preparation and ways to help

With winter approaching, Portland and Multnomah County leaders stood with first responders and service providers Tuesday to renew their commitment to hundreds of neighbors facing severe weather this year without sufficient shelter: No one seeking a warm, safe refuge from deadly conditions will ever be turned away.

“Last winter, when temperatures were bone-chilling and snow and ice ground our city to a halt, hundreds of people left the warmth of their own homes to help staff warming shelters across our community,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, during a media event at Bud Clark Commons’ multipurpose room.

“With that human generosity, Multnomah County and the cities of Portland and Gresham were able to offer shelter to anyone who sought it,” she continued. “This year, we are committed to do the same. During severe weather, we will stand up the shelter and resources we need to ensure that no one who needs shelter is shut out in the cold.”

This year, for the first time, neighbors can go to to proactively sign up for volunteer training or donate needed equipment. In both cases, providers say, having stockpiles of equipment and trained volunteers at the ready, before a storm or cold snap, will leave more time for saving lives when conditions change.


Commissioners approve $10.8 million agreement to sell Wapato site

Twelve years after the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners first voted to find a new owner or use for the Wapato Detention Facility, the current Board approved a purchase and sales agreement to sell the property for $10.8 million -- and dedicate the proceeds to affordable housing.

The resolution, approved 4-1, declares the property surplus and gives Kehoe Northwest Properties, LLC, of Portland two days to put down $200,000 earnest money, and $300,000 by Jan. 8., 2018. The county and Kehoe Northwest Properties now have 60 days to complete the deal, with an option to extend that period 30 days. Wapato was appraised as an industrial building for $8.5 million in 2014.

“This is a lot better than letting the building sit vacant, gobbling up operating dollars that can be spent on truly needed priorities like housing and mental health services,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “We can’t change the fact that decades ago Multnomah County made a terrible mistake and built a jail we don’t need. But what we can do is ensure it doesn’t happen again.”


Pacific Islander Coalition meets with Chair Deborah Kafoury

Chair Deborah Kafoury listens to Pacific Islander Coalition.

The Pacific Islander Coalition members gathered at a union hall in southeast Portland on a rainy Wednesday evening on Nov. 15 for a nearly two-hour listening session so the Chair could learn more about these county residents and their experiences. Pacific Islanders are among the fastest growing groups in the county. But although formal estimates have placed their number at 4,000, the community in Multnomah County is closer to 10,000, Enlet said. And therein lies a key problem.

Pacific Islanders, often called Asian Pacific Islanders, are ethnically and racially lumped in with all American Asians. As a result, data that would identify critical employment, health and education issues and priorities are blurred or obscured by the larger Asian population. “We need data,’’ said Saane Pongi, who has worked at FamilyCare Health Systems for more than two decades. “We have a lot of goals that we would like to accomplish once we get the data. Education, poverty, areas we live in, smoking rates, diabetes—without the data, there is no way for us to move forward.’’

Chair Kafoury said it was sad to know that the community's validity, in a sense, is determined by access to a few numbers. “I don’t need the numbers to see you, but it’s the way the world works. By not even being able to collect the data, it’s one more way your voices are silenced and you are not even seen as people.’’


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