Dear friends and neighbors,

Earlier this month Multnomah County received a $2 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to help us improve our public safety system.

With these new resources, we are going to provide a safe place for African American women to stay and receive services that will keep them from churning through a very expensive criminal justice system.

This is another step in our long term effort to provide alternatives to jail that work,while making sure our justice system serves everyone equitably.

Through our work with the MacArthur foundation, we confirmed what we long suspected: there are deep racial disparities throughout our justice system.   This has to end, and I’m committed to pushing us in the right direction.

One false conviction is enough to undermine trust in our public safety system and unequal treatment in our jail, courtrooms and on our streets makes our community less safe.

That’s why the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge is so important. By putting more than 100 million in private dollars on the table they are challenging local governments to do better.

Because of Multnomah County’s commitment to this effort we are one of eight counties nationwide that have won additional resources to expand our work. Collaborations like this are key to taking on the hard problems we face locally and nationwide.

You can learn more about the Safety and Justice Challenge, and the county’s role in making our community safer on our website. You can also learn about the progress we’ve made and the work we still have to do.


Deborah Kafoury 

Providers, political leaders pushing to house thousands more chronically homeless neighbors

Chair Deborah Kafoury, center, with Portland Commissioner Nick Fish, left, and Heather Lyons of CSH at a summit Sept. 14, 2017, on supportive housing.

Multnomah County and Portland leaders are working on a plan to dramatically expand “supportive housing” for thousands of the most vulnerable neighbors on our streets.

Supportive housing is sometimes the only effective strategy for people struggling with significant disabilities and long-term homelessness. Without it, many of them cycle through hospital beds, jail cells, shelter mats and sidewalks. Units of supportive housing are deeply affordable and come with services attached. That helps ensure that people experiencing homelessness who also have a physical disability, mental illness or an addiction can rebuild skills and live independently. This fosters success for people who wouldn’t stay housed without services, or who wouldn’t stay connected to services without housing.

“We’ll never get there if we’re having conversations about which comes first, the chicken or the egg. Is it the housing or the health care? We have to just do it,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said at a summit on supportive housing held at Central City Concern’s Old Town Recovery Center in September.

“We can build a Sellwood Bridge. We can build a new downtown courthouse. We can build the Orange Line,” she continued. “But we can’t house our most vulnerable citizens? That’s not the community I want to live in.”

The Board of Commissioners and Portland City Council voted to approve the vision earlier this month. The multimillion-dollar plan calls upon a wide range of community partners to help produce at least 2,000 more apartments or vouchers by 2028.


Advocates raise cash and awareness for changing face of HIV

Advocates raised more than $200,000 as hundreds gathered for the AIDS Walk Portland, an annual effort to raise awareness about the changing healthcare needs of people living with HIV and AIDS. A team from the Multnomah County’s HIV Health Service Center raised more than $12,500 for the cause.

“I do it because I really believe in the cause,” said Center Manager Jodi Davich, who raised $5,000 from friends and family. “It‘s a time to remind people that HIV and AIDS is still with us. It’s also important for people to know that in Oregon there are lot of low-income people living with AIDS who need support.”

“Whoever you are, and whoever you love, health care is a human right, and no one should be denied the care they need,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said to the crowd gathered at the Fields Neighborhood Park in the Pearl District. “We have a long way to go as a nation to build a health care system that fulfills that promise for every one of us.

She encouraged people to “lean into hard conversations.”

“It’s the only way we will remove the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS,” she said. “No one should fight this alone.”


“Is there an unlocked gun in the house?”- ASK Campaign encourages parents/ grandparents to pose a simple question

Parents usually ask all sorts of questions before their children visit somebody else’s home.

“Do you have dogs? My child has allergies. Do you have a swimming pool?’’ said Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon.

“But we want people to ask one more question: Is there an unlocked gun in the home where your children or grandchildren play?” said Okamoto.

That simple question has the power to save a child’s life, she and members of the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Campaign stressed during a briefing before the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Sept. 26.

Sheriff Mike Reese shared Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office efforts to reduce gun violence through background checks and extreme risk protective orders.

As a parent and police officer,  when my kids were young, parents asked us me where my guns were kept, he told board members.   

“I was always able to say that they were kept at work or they’re locked up at home. And I thought their question was right .... that’s responsible parenting.”

“This issue is not going away,” said Chair Deborah Kafoury, who pledged support for stronger gun regulation during next year’s legislative session.

“This has been a very sobering conversation, but a very important one to have today.”  

Read more at                         

Involvement & Volunteer Leadership Opportunities at Multnomah County

Office of Community Involvement

Community members bring diverse voices into Multnomah County decision-making through a variety of advisory committees and workgroups. These committees help keep county services and priorities grounded in community needs, and offer volunteers opportunities for meaningful involvement and leadership.

For those passionate about the environment, equity, and economics, the County's Advisory Committee on Sustainability and Innovation (ACSI) advises the County's Board of Commissioners on sustainability strategies that help our entire community thrive. ACSI is currently recruiting for three new members.

The Public Health Advisory Board consists of 15-17 members who advise on strategic priorities and emerging issues, and it is currently accepting applications for new members. No formal public health training or experience is required.

There are openings on several Budget Advisory Committees (CBAC’s). CBAC’s are groups of community members that review and make recommendations on county departmental budgets and operations.

For more information about County involvement and volunteer leadership opportunities, visit the Office of Community Involvement webpage.

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