Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Yesterday, Multnomah County adopted our 2017 budget, making good on a pledge I made last year to find $10 million new funding to address our housing crisis.
Too many families are struggling to find affordable housing, or hold onto the apartment they have. The depth of this crisis is heartbreaking. We're seeing it in our family shelter, but also at our health clinics, and in our SUN schools.
This budget makes significant investments to help tenants stay in their apartments and weather our housing market, help get people quickly into housing and to expand shelter for those who are homeless and looking for a permanent home. And with this budget we are creating a joint office of homeless services -- finally putting support for families and individuals under one roof and breaking down an artificial barrier between the City of Portland and Multnomah County.
We are also investing in strategies that will make our community safer and our justice system more fair.
This budget reduces our reliance on incarceration and instead funds a new jail diversion program aimed at low level offenders. And it includes resources for a pilot program to provide mental health assessments at booking so people in crisis can get treatment instead of languishing in jail.
We are making these investments while staying within our current revenues and keeping our books balanced over three years. That took some tough choices, but this budget will continue the efforts we started last year to make our community more equitable.
And I am excited to get to work.
County's 2017 budget makes big investment in housing, mental health, youth
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Thursday passed its 2017 budget, enabling the county to launch a regional office on homelessness, invest millions in housing services, and pilot a new program to divert people experiencing mental health crisis from ending up in jail.
The $1.87 billion budget allows for the same level of ongoing spending for the next three years, and tops off the county's reserve funds. Most of that money comes from federal and state governments while a smaller portion called the General Fund is collected locally, mostly from property, business and rental vehicle taxes.
The approved budget includes a central pillar of Chair Kafoury's administration: more than $10 million in emergency and stable housing services and resources to launch and staff a new office of homelessness that brings together Multnomah County and the City of Portland. It's an investment, she said, that "will make a significant impact in the lives of Multnomah County residents who are facing a housing crisis unlike anything we've ever seen."
Chair Kafoury choked up as she thanked her colleagues on the board, then cleared her throat.
"Public service isn't about making speeches or building up your resume," she said. "it's about holding our government accountable and ensuring that the decisions we make put the people first and improve their lives. I think that the budget before us does that."
Lead tests for southeast Portland residents find low levels of the harmful metal
Multnomah County opened two free clinics after the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on May 19 announced airborne lead in southeast Portland at three to four times the state health benchmark. State officials linked the airborne lead to emissions from Bullseye Glass Co. on May 9 and May 10.
None of the children or adults tested so far for lead poisoning in southeast Portland had blood lead levels that would require further medical care or public health action.
The Multnomah County Health Department yesterday reported that 192 people have been screened for lead poisoning since the state announced high levels of airborne lead in their neighborhood. All the blood lead levels for people screened so far are considered low. This includes results for 71 people who were tested Monday at the Children's Creative Learning Center at Fred Meyer (CCLC).
"Parents should be reassured that we did not find blood lead levels of concern" said Jae Douglas, director of the Environmental Health Department. "But we know we have not reached everyone, and encourage moms and children under 6 to take advantage of our upcoming clinics."
For more details about the air quality concern, click here.
Praise for housing investment at final budget hearing
Nate Armstrong was broke, homeless and high when he entered Hooper Detox, a program of Central City Concern, in 2012. It forced him to slow down and take a step back, "like an adult time out," he told the commissioners. "Today, with almost four years clean, my life is good. I have a job. I'm able to support fellow addicts in recovery. I'm buying a house."
Central City Concern contracts with Multnomah County to offer addiction recovery, housing, employment and peer support services.
Deandre Kenyanjui was, he said, "one of those people that didn't live a productive life. I had lost all sense of self, I didn't understand there was another way to live."
But he's changed with the help of Central City Concern, he said. "And I've watched countless other men and women come from the brink of death back to life."
Commissioners also heard from staff and clients at Transition Projects, a nonprofit that provides housing and support to people recovering from addiction, those on parole or probation.
Stacy Borke, director of Housing Services at Transition Projects and co-chair of the "A Home for Everyone" Coordinating Committee said she fully supports the board's proposed budget and is excited with the coordinated efforts of pubic and nonprofits to combat homelessness.
Read the full article here.
Sellwood Bridge on track for Fall 2016 completion
Project leaders told the Board of County Commissioners Thursday that the Sellwood Bridge Project is on track to be completed this November.
"We are 90% complete with construction," Project Manager Ian Cannon told the board.
Cannon showed commissioners an aerial photograph to convey the large size of the current work zone. "It's a sprawling project," he said. Although the new bridge opened in February, crews are completing project elements from a new traffic signal on the east side to a new entrance to River View Cemetery and a new regional trail on the west side.
"The regional trail between the bridge and SW Miles Place will open this summer," Cannon explained. Earlier this week, the second through lane of Highway 43 opened on the lower level of a new interchange with the bridge," Cannon said.
The Next big traffic change comes in August, when westbound bridge traffic can finally turn left to reach southbound Highway 43. "That will be a big deal," agreed Chair Deborah Kafoury. For several years while the interchange was being built, drivers have had to travel north and turn around at Taylors Ferry Road.
Read the full article here.
What: Rock the Block is a family-oriented celebration that brings together organizations that provide community members access to much needed, life changing resources.
Where: 18535 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97233
When: Friday, June 3 from 3pm - 8pm and Saturday, June 4 from 10am - 4pm
For more information visit rockwoodnation.org