Dear Friends and Neighbors,

During this busy time of the year, I think it is helpful to take a step back and reflect on the many things we appreciate about our lives. I am grateful for my friends and family, especially my husband and children, who have been by my side through a year of incredible change. I am able to look back at this past year with a smile on my face but with an eye towards what still needs to be done.

A recent report by the Multnomah County Health Department shined a bright light on the unacceptable racial and ethnic health disparities that exist in our county. And behind the statistics and numbers are people, children and families. The reasons for such disparities are complex, but we can't afford to sit back and do nothing. While I know that tackling these issues is difficult, it demands our collective focus and our commitment to change. I look at the coming new year as an opportunity to make the changes necessary to  improve the lives of everyone in Multnomah County.

Happy Holidays,

Deborah Kafoury

Gresham, Multnomah County launch Promise Zone partnership

Chair Kafoury and Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis announced on Nov. 25 their joint pursuit of federal Promise Zone status for Gresham's Rockwood neighborhood, and committed to working together to make improvements to the community around education, job creation and crime reduction.

The two elected officials gathered at the Rockwood Station of the Gresham Police Department to make the announcement. They were joined by Multnomah County Commissioner Diane McKeel, Gresham City Council President Lori Stegmann, Gresham City Councilor Michael McCormick and a host of community members and partners.

"Rockwood is unique in its strengths and challenges," Chair Kafoury told a crowd that packed into a conference room at the police station. "What the Promise Zone designation application has done is given us the opportunity to build on the foundation of work by community partners and have real discussions about what it will take to make life better and more prosperous for Rockwood families."

Read the full Multnomah County article.

Board ratifies union contract; extends minimum 'living' wage to on-call, temporary workers

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 4 ratified a new collective bargaining agreement between the county and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 88  that raises the minimum wage for county employees to $15 an hour by the end of the three-year agreement.

In addition to approving the agreement establishing a minimum wage for all union employees, the board extended the phased-in $15 minimum to on-call and temporary workers.

The extension was not part of the Local 88 agreement, but was extended by the board in the spirit of fairness to all of the county's lowest-paid employees, said Chair Deborah Kafoury.

"I'm very proud that we will be able to extend this wage increase to Multnomah County's many on-call and temporary employees," Chair Kafoury said. "These employees help us conduct elections and operate our libraries and perform other key services for county residents. It is only fair that they be included with our permanent employees."

Read the full Multnomah County article.

Linnton Community Center Groundbreaking brings hope to local teens

Chair Kafoury, Mayor Hales, Senator Betsy Johnson and other community partners came together to celebrate the groundbreaking for the new Linnton Community Center (LCC).

Linnton is isolated geographically and many in the community live in poverty. Life in Linnton is especially difficult for teens, who do not have access to the same activeness found in other communities. The new Linnton Community Center aims to provide more opportunities for surrounding teens.

Currently, LCC has 43 elementary students enrolled in its after-school program, but only have a few middle and high school aged kids participating in their programming. The new facility will provide an opportunity for more individuals to enroll in its programs. 

LCC will use the property for a new teen skill building course. The course will pair teens with skilled mentors to work on hands-on projects. The teens will learn valuable skills and develop relationships with caring adults who work in surrounding industries. LCC is a non-profit organization dedicated to meeting the needs of the Linnton neighborhood and other isolated parts of northwest Portland.

The newly released Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver is here to educate students and adults alike 

In 128 years of bridge building across the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the Portland-Vancouver area, Big & Awesome is the first book for both adults and children on the subject. Sponsored by PDX Bridge Festival, Inc., a Portland non-profit, in cooperation with Portland Public Schools, Big & Awesome will primarily be used in the third grade classrooms of Portland Public Schools and in the elementary school libraries of Vancouver School District.

A regional resource, Big & Awesome focuses on the 22 big river railroad and roadway bridges between Vancouver and Oregon City and includes interviews, elevation drawings, poems, a 19-page, step-by-step bridge building and load testing guide, and other riveting stuff.

Check out this Big & Awesome Bridges of Portland and Vancouver video.

Everyone counts!

Please join us during the week of January 28 - February 3 to help us count the men, women and families who sleep outside because of their homelessness. Our community's Homeless Street Count gives us vital information about how many people in our community are sleeping outside, who they are, how long they have been homeless and what kind of help they need to overcome barriers to health and housing.

What is the Homeless Street Count?
The Homeless Street Count is conducted every two years in an effort to learn more about the individuals and families experiencing homelessness throughout Multnomah County. An accurate count makes our community eligible for millions of dollars in funding for essential services and provides the City, County, and nonprofits with important information so we can direct resources and design programs that meet the community's needs.

What role do volunteers play?
Volunteers are stationed at specific locations throughout Multnomah County and work with agency staff to invite people to participate in a short one-page survey and then fill out the survey form with their responses.

Shifts last from two to four hours, and shifts are available in the morning, daytime, and evening.

What are the qualifications?

Street Count volunteers need to be:
- Comfortable approaching people and inviting them to participate in the survey;
- Able to relate effectively with a wide range of people;
- Humble and respectful;
- Able to stand or walk for long periods of time, in some cases outdoors;
- Comfortable spending time on street corners or in crowded waiting areas;
- Able to read the survey questions and record the answers;
- Sensitive to issues of confidentiality and anonymity.

In addition, we will need several volunteers who are bi-lingual in verbal and written English and Spanish.

Is training available?
Trainings will be held in mid-January. Dates and locations to be announced.

How do I sign up?
Contact Carrie Young at A staff member will follow up later in December with a list of available shifts.

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