Dear Friends and Neighbors,
When I travel around Multnomah County I hear a clear message from my neighbors, friends and colleagues. We all want to make sure that everyone has access to a safe, affordable home.
But with less than 3 percent of apartments vacant and rents soaring, too many of us are sleeping in cars, on a friend's couch or worse -- outside on our streets.
I write to you often about how Multnomah County is trying to change this. We are investing, together with the city, $30 million in rental assistance and expanded shelter and affordable housing. And this summer we will open three new shelters, giving hundreds of our neighbors a safe place to sleep at night.
But today I'm writing to you about how you can help. Multnomah County, in conjunction with A Home for Everyone, released a formal request for information inviting businesses, service organizations and individuals to submit proposals of how they can contribute to our community homeless services plan.
If you have a property or a building that could be used for shelter, or if you would like to operate a homeless shelter in our community -- providing support and hope for people who need it -- please follow this link and participate in this process.
We are working hard to break down silos and jurisdictional barriers that have hindered our progress in getting people into shelter, and ultimately, into housing -- and if we all work together we change the lives of thousands of our neighbors.
Multnomah County, City of Portland approve joint office to combat homelessness
A more nimble and streamlined service delivery system will debut this Friday to assist people experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County.
The Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners approved last Thursday an Office of Homeless Services, a central office to oversee the delivery of services to people in need.
The office, which opens July 1, represents a historic step forward in the effort to solve the homelessness crisis in Multnomah County and Portland.
"This is the final step in establishing a formal recognition of the unprecedented collaboration over the last two years between the city of Portland and Multnomah County to improve the way we serve families and individuals experiencing homelessness," Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said.
Historically, the city has provided services for homeless individuals, while the county has provided services for families, children and survivors of domestic violence.
"The division really makes no sense," Kafoury said. "A homeless single mom doesn't care which layer of government is responsible for helping her. She just wants to find a warm, dry place for her and her child to sleep at night."
The Joint Office of Homeless Services brings all of these services together under one roof. Although the office will be hosted by the county, the city and county each have agreed to provide at least $15 million for its operation each year. The jurisdictions also will share in the offices' governance, as outlined in the intergovernmental agreement adopted by the county last Thursday and the Portland City Council last Wednesday.
Chair Kafoury shares plans to increase workforce diversity in capital projects
Earlier this month, Chair Kafoury met with a large group of Portland area business owners, entrepreneurs and contractors at the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs for the monthly meeting, "Coffee and Issues."
Kafoury shared her admiration for the organization as well as the intentional work that the county is doing to empower minority business owners through the Sellwood Bridge Project, the new Central Courthouse, the Gladys McCoy Health Department Headquarters and the other important county capital projects.
When the Sellwood Bridge Project wraps up this fall, the county's general contractor will be on track to meet the goal of awarding 20 percentage of subcontracts "to minority, women, and emerging small business contractors," Kafoury said.
"It is the county's responsibility on all of our public projects," said Kafoury, "to have a workforce that reflects the diversity of our community."
She also discussed the county's efforts to decrease homelessness, highlighting the formation of the Joint Office of Homelessness between Multnomah County and the City of Portland and $47 million in new resources for affordable housing, new shelter beds and homeless services.
Multnomah County requires tobacco license fee for retailers
Beginning July 1, all businesses selling tobacco or nicotine products in Multnomah County must be licensed or face fines or penalties.
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved a $580 annual license and penalties starting at $500 and mandatory training for the first violation.
The vote was the latest in a series of Board actions to keep children from illegally buying and then becoming addicted to tobacco. Tobacco remains the leading cause of death in Multnomah County and surveys show 90 percent of adult smokers started before age 18.
This action, said Chair Kafoury, "is long overdue."
Although selling cigarettes to minors has been illegal for decades, Oregon is one of the few states in the country that has no tobacco retail licensing and no way to hold businesses accountable. The Board approved a license in November 2015 after state and federal surveys showed Multnomah County had some of the highest rates of illegal sales in the nation.
"Not only is Oregon one of the few states in the country that had no tobacco retail licensing," says Kafoury, "Multnomah County was one of the highest in the country for sales, illegal sales to minors. We weren't just making a few mistakes here and there. We were actually at the top of the list."
Chair Kafoury and Mayor Hales call for halt of Bakken crude transport
Chair Kafoury and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said earlier this month they oppose oil trains through Oregon and that a proposed terminal in Vancouver that would increase oil train traffic in both states.
At a press conference at City Hall, the two joined leaders from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, and other in opposing rail transport of Bakken crude oil.
"We got our warning two weeks ago: this oil is too dangerous to ship," said Chair Kafoury. "Take a moment to imagine that fire on Water Avenue in the Central Eastside, or in the Pearl District."
The renewed opposition comes after the disastrous derailment of an oil train passing through Mosier, Oregon on June 3, 2016. The derailment, which sent a plume of toxic smoke high into the air and caused some 10,000 gallons of oil to leak into a local water treatment plant, rekindled concerns about transporting volatile Bakken oil through the most densely populated county in Oregon and the iconic Columbia River Gorge.
Chair Kafoury and Mayor Hales said they are calling on the state and federal leaders because local governments have gone as far as they can.
Multco Vector Control joins fight against Zika virus, Environmental Health director tells U.S. Senators
Multnomah County is aggressively collecting and testing mosquitoes to protect the public from the Zika virus, the Director of Environmental Health told Oregon's two senators Friday.
"Surveillance is our primary tool at this time," Jae Douglas told U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley at press briefing at Oregon Health & Science University's Collaborative Life Sciences Building in Portland.
Oregon has had eight confirmed cases of Zika, all of them linked to travel, said Dr. Richard Leman, chief medical officer for the Oregon Health Authority. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report a total of 820 cases have been reported nationwide through June 22. None have been traced to local mosquitoes.
The mosquito that carries Zika are not yet found in Oregon. But Douglas said, the county will continue to monitor and treat as needed.
Residents should be particularly vigilant since our recent weather pattern of warm temperatures followed by rain, it is especially good breeding conditions," Douglas said.
To read more about Zika: