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City and county considering shift in homeless, affordable housing services


Portland and Multnomah County leaders are considering a fundamental realignment in how homeless and affordable housing services are provided.

The change would put the county fully in charge of homeless services and the city in charge of providing affordable housing. The discussions are happening after both the city and county have declared housing states of emergency, and the City Council has been criticized for sanctioning an increase in homeless camping.

The changes are outlined in a Feb. 18 letter from Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is in charge of the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB), and County Chair Deborah Kafoury to members of A Home for Everyone, a partnership of Portland, Gresham, Multnomah County and Home Forward, the former Portland Housing Authority.

The letter says a study group has recommended the creation of "a Joint City-Council Office of Homeless Services, hosted at Multnomah County, reporting directly to the Multnomah County Chair and closely aligned with the Portland Housing Commissioner, that brings together the homeless services staff currently at PHB and DCHS (the Multnomah County Department of Human Services)."

Mayor Charlie Hales alluded to the discussions during Thursday's hearing on relocating the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp from Chinatown to Southeast Portland.

"Based on this initial staff assessment, we have convened a steering committee of key City and County staff to work out the legal, administrate and budgetary dimensions of a potential consolidation. That steering committee began meeting last week," the letter says.

You can read the letter here.

The approach outlined in the letter appears to contradict the one recommended by Lloyd Pendleton, a retired Ford Motors executive who chaired the Utah Homeless Task Force credited with cutting chronic homelessness in that state by 91 percent.

Speaking to the Portland Business Alliance at its monthly breakfast forum on Nov. 18, 2014, Pendleton said a single statewide elected official like a governor needs to take personally responsibility for ending homelessness and bring both locally elected officials and business leaders together in the effort.

A previous Portland Tribune story on the issue can be read at http://www.pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/282352-158344-more-emergency-beds-needed-for-homeless.