Public Testimony Regarding HereTogether Ballot Measure

February 25, 2020

"Good evening, Chair Peterson, Metro Councilors. I’m Susheela Jayapal, Multnomah County Commissioner for District 2, representing North and Northeast Portland.

I ran for office in 2018 largely because of my concern about housing and homelessness, and about the associated displacement of communities of color from my district and from my region.

I’ve been part of the Here Together coalition since early in my term, and am very grateful for the work the Coalition has done, leading up to the plan that will be before you.

We all know that our homelessness crisis is unfolding in every corner of our region. In North and Northeast Portland, we see the number of people forced to live on sidewalks and along median strips and freeway embankments growing day by day.

Each time I drive out on NE 33rd Avenue toward Marine Drive, I see more and more vans and campers parked along the side of the street.

Homelessness is absolutely the very first issue — and the second, and the third — that my constituents want to talk about. What they ask is why we don’t seem to be making a dent in the problem. Is it a matter of not knowing what the solutions are? Or is it a matter of resources?

It’s a matter of resources.

We know what the solutions are. The solutions are housing; rent assistance, if needed to make the housing affordable; and the additional wraparound services that help people stay housed. Mental and behavioral healthcare, addictions support, caseworkers, job training, and more.

We know what the solutions are, and we have been providing them.

We simply haven’t had the resources to match the scale of the problem. If we act now, to develop a significant new revenue source, we can do more than make a dent. We can significantly reduce and prevent homelessness.

If we don’t act now, our crisis will continue to increase in magnitude. It will become a runaway train, gaining weight as it rushes down hill, increasingly difficult to stop.

The Here Together coalition has a comprehensive, region-wide plan to significantly reduce homelessness in our community. I’m particularly proud of the fact that it prioritizes equity, recognizing that our communities of color and other marginalized communities are most disproportionately experiencing homelessness and at risk for homelessness. It’s a plan that provides a regional path forward. I urge you to approve placing this measure on the ballot."