Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Last year, Mayor Charlie Hales and I set a goal: find homes for 690 veterans by the end of 2015.

Because of near-zero vacancy rates and rising rents, our greatest challenge was finding affordable units. But we reached out to private landlords and they opened up over 250 units for veterans and their families.

This month we got the preliminary numbers back and we beat our goal, housing 692 veterans. We still have a lot of work to do. But our success with veterans shows us that given focused investment, we can find homes for those who are experiencing homelessness.

Having a home is the key to recovery, it makes it easier for families to get to work and get their kids to school and it offers a safe place to heal from the trauma of living on the streets.

That’s why our long-term goal with A Home For Everyone, the city-county partnership on homelessness, is to find permanent housing for people in need.

We housed 3,500 people last fiscal year, which is a 17 percent increase over the previous year. And we have committed to expand that number each year until we are able to house 4,300 people annually by the end of 2017.

Last summer Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and I committed $30 million to housing and homelessness in next year's budget. With this new investment we are planning to open 650 emergency shelter beds, recognizing that we need to act now to provide safety for the people in our community that are sleeping on the streets.

On Thanksgiving Day the city of Portland opened the Jerome Sears Shelter, which is now offering 175 beds for women and couples on a nightly basis.

This month an expanded family shelter will open in east Portland providing shelter to 130 people and replacing a former strip club. This county family shelter is committed to turning no one away, so any family that seeks help will find it. Earlier this month, an additional 150 beds of shelter opened downtown in an building generously donated by a local business leader.

Sincerely,

Deborah Kafoury

Editorial: Wapato a bad idea for people on the streets

"Wapato's location is completely isolated from the rest of the community. There are no public businesses, including a grocery or convenience store, for miles. In fact, there's nothing but industrial flatlands and greenspace around it. Siting a mass shelter at Wapato would be nothing short of warehousing the poor far, far away."

Read full article here.

Portland, Multnomah County hit goal to house homeless vets

"The sheer complexity of issues involved in addressing homelessness can be paralyzing for policymakers. Which is why it's especially important to celebrate the wins, like the announcement this week that the "A Home for Everyone" coalition surpassed its goal of finding permanent housing for homeless veterans in 2015, as The Oregonian/OregonLive's Brad Schmidt reported.

Thanks to the collaboration of Multnomah County, the cities of Portland and Gresham, housing nonprofits and several others, the coalition was able to tap federal dollars and work with private landlords to find permanent housing for 695 veterans. Elected officials, including Mayor Charlie Hales, Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury personally spoke with landlords to help find available units."

Read full Oregonian article here and Oregonian Editorial Board Article here.

County settles Mortgage Electronic Registration System litigation

County Attorney Jenny Madkour addresses the board on Jan. 7.

The Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners Jan. 7 voted to settle the lawsuit it filed against a national company that helps mortgage lenders avoid county recording fees.

The Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, was a membership made up of the biggest banks in the mortgage business, including JPMorgan and Bank of America.

MERS was designed to allow its members to quickly buy and sell bundled mortgages without the time and expense of recording each transfer with county governments across the country. But it also caused confusion for homeowners, who often couldn't decipher who really owned their loan.

And it cost the county millions in lost recording fees.

Few local governments have been willing to take on a company the size of MERS.

"There are a lot of risks. It's expensive, and time consuming," said Multnomah County Attorney Jenny Madkour. "We were able to get here because of a forward-thinking board and an offer from outside counsel willing to take on the litigation."

"Three years ago when we looked at taking this on, I wasn't optimistic," Chair Kafoury, who was the commissioner for District 1 at the time, said Thursday. "Taking on people who have made millions of dollars from the people we represent, who have lost their homes, it seemed like pie in the sky."

Read full article here.

County presents legislators awards for saving lives

Multnomah County Commissioners thanked state Reps. Jennifer Williamson and Shemia Fagan for working on laws to curb fatal drug overdoses.

The Multnomah County Health Department nominated the two legislators for the Oregon Public Health Association's Policy Champion award for sponsoring the Good Samaritan law, which allows people to call 911 without fear of being prosecuted for possessing drugs.

"Reps. Fagan and Williamson have passed legislation that saves lives," said Chair Deborah Kafoury.

Read full article here.

5 Things You Need to Know about Multnomah County's HIV Health Services Center

Nearly 6,500 Oregonians are living with HIV, according to the Oregon Health Authority - and half of them live in Multnomah County. Here's what you should know about our local HIV clinic.

Board opposes projects that will increase oil trains through Multnomah County

Supporters of Thursday's resolution pack the county board room.

The Board of Commissioners Thursday, Jan 21 unanimously passed a resolution opposing a surge of trains carrying crude oil through Multnomah County and the Columbia Gorge, and called on Washington State regulators to require a more thorough risk assessment before it allows a major oil transport terminal project to move forward in the Port of Vancouver.

Board Chair Kafoury said that while the board doesn't have the power to restrict the flow of rail traffic that passes through Multnomah County, they could demand that Washinton State's Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council conduct a more thorough environmental and hazard risk assessment of the project before they sign off.

"Shipping crude oil through neighborhoods, past thousands of people, poses a very real threat," she said. And the draft environmental impact statement submitted by the Tesoro Savage project, falls short of addressing its potential impacts on Oregon.

"The risk to our community is too great," she said. "That's why I urge regulators to stop this project from moving forward and consider the full risk of shipping oil by trains through the most heavily populated area of the state."

Read full article here.