Multnomah County Board members and staff pose alongside Members of the Native American Youth and Family Center or NAYA
Dear friends and neighbors,

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

The movement to recognize and celebrate Native communities is fast-becoming an annual tradition throughout the country. As more cities, counties and states begin to declare the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we acknowledge the truth of our nation’s history, and shine light on how that history impacts the lives of Native communities today. And sadly, there remain urgent issues to highlight.

It was around this time last year that I received a briefing on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. This chronic threat to the lives of Native women is woefully underreported, and captures far too little attention. In fact, this might be your first time hearing about the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls movement. 

After I met with my staff, we secured funding in our budget to build awareness within critical County programs and services that intersect with this issue. We have a responsibility to invest in our own learning, identify ways to protect Native women and prevent this targeted violence in the future. 

The voices of our Native communities need to be heard. It should begin with listening, but this is only the first of many steps we should take. We know we can do better, because for people who have been deliberately sidelined and ignored by governments for centuries, visibility is not an abstract concept. Being seen and acknowledged is the first step to building trust and inclusion. It is the first step in understanding what needs to change. 

Last Thursday morning, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners heard from leaders of our Native community who spoke about historical injustices that still impact Indian Country today. These stories are hard to hear and we must seek to be better.

I know that I still have a lot more learning to do. A lot of us do. That means being vulnerable, and it also means accepting that we are still going to make mistakes no matter how hard we want to get it right. But that fear should never cause us to listen less or to step away. Because our commitment to stand with Native people doesn’t exist for just one day of the year. 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an acknowledgement of our history, it is a celebration of Native identity, and for people like me, it reminds us to renew our commitment.

Sincerely,

Deborah Kafoury 

Board declares Oct. 14 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, marking the fourth year in this new tradition

Oregon State Rep. Tawna Sanchez, who also serves as director of Family Services for the Native American Youth and Family Center, and is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock speaks before board.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners declared today, Oct. 14, 2019, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day; a day to acknowledge the immeasurable history, culture and forced invisibility of Native American and Alaskan people.

Members of the Native American Youth and Family Center or NAYA who also represent Shoshone-Bannock, Cherokee and Blackfeet nations spoke to board members on Thursday  (October 10). The declaration marks the fourth year the County has recognized the rich history and sacrifices of native nations and touches the surface of the displacement, lost lives and continued disparate impacts on native communities. 

“Our nation was founded on the fundamental ideals of equality, opportunity and prosperity,” said William Miller, Community Advocacy Manager for the Native American Youth and Family Center and a Cherokee and Blackfeet nation member. Read more here.

New Community Engagement Specialist to bring more community voice, understanding and optimism to public safety system

In September, Rice joined the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council team.

There’s a presence to Leneice Rice, one that exudes confidence and optimism, even in the face of challenges. 

In a room full of public safety officials, elected leaders, and community advocates, Rice commands full attention. She’s not daunted by the formidable people around her. In fact, she’s a natural fit as a counselor with roughly 10 years of experience in one-on-one and group counseling, suicide and substance abuse prevention, public speaking, and community engagement. 

And there’s gravitas in her expertise in Counselor Education and Clinical Mental Health. Rice earned her Master’s of Education at the University of New Orleans and a bachelor’s in Psychology from Tusculum University in Tennessee. “Go Pioneers,” she says with a laugh. 

But there’s even more to Rice than a strong résumé, warm smile and sense of comedic timing. It's an ability to truly connect with people, particularly those who experience significant struggles.

Read more here.

‘Housing, not Warehousing’: County leaders, businesses, advocates reject Trump’s harsh homelessness rhetoric

Chair Deborah Kafoury speaks at a Street Roots news conference Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019.

Chair Deborah Kafoury linked arms with community leaders and people who’ve personally experienced homelessness to rebuke Donald Trump’s threats to round up people living on our streets — and warehouse them in remote facilities, out of sight and out of mind.

The community rally on Wednesday, Sept. 25, was called “Housing, not Warehousing,” and it follows sharp new rhetoric from the White House on West Coast homelessness.  

Beyond calling for mass shelters far from city centers, the president and his team have urged communities to rely on police more, instead of less, in responding to people in a mental health crisis. They’ve threatened environmental fines for cities like San Francisco over discarded syringes. And they’ve called for further cutting federal housing investments instead of reversing decades of growing disinvestment.

Read more here.

Board approves plans for Behavioral Health Resource Center

Preliminary sketch of proposed behavioral health resource center.

The Board of Commissioners on Thursday, Sept. 26, approved preliminary plans for a first-of-its-kind behavioral health resource center in downtown Portland at 333 S.W. Park Ave. Read a one-pager about the project here.

Thursday’s vote authorizes design development and pre-construction to move forward on the 24,000-square-foot facility and adjacent 7,000-square-foot plaza, which will be operated by the Health Department in partnership with the Joint Office of Homeless Services. The facility will offer respite, in particular, for people experiencing homelessness downtown — providing laundry and showers, food, peer-led resources, and shelter and transitional housing.

“This structure will be a game-changer,” Commissioner Sharon Meieran said Thursday.

Read more here.

Multnomah County Elections Assists Voters with Disabilities or Voters Who Need Help in Their Preferred Language

Multnomah County Elections Assists Voters with Disabilities or Voters Who Need Help in Their Preferred Language

The next election in Multnomah County is the November 5, 2019 Special Election. There will be local measures on the ballot that include requests for local tax money or proposed changes to laws. Only eligible voters that live within the boundaries of the local districts holding elections will receive a ballot. The districts on the ballot are the City of Portland, City of Troutdale, Metro, Portland Public School District and Sauvie Island Fire District. 

Voters in Multnomah County with disabilities can request help with voting from a friend, family member or someone else they know. If needed, voters can also call and request voting and elections related help from Multnomah County Elections. Elections Voter Assistance Teams can help a voter in their home, at the facility they live in, or at an elections service location in SE Portland or Gresham. This help is always free of charge.

Read more here.

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