ASTORIA, Ore. — Clatsop County is now included in the homelessness state of emergency that Gov. Tina Kotek declared shortly after taking office in January, county officials announced Thursday.
The emergency applies to parts of Oregon where the unsheltered homeless population has increased by 50% or more from 2017 to 2022. Kotek said that "most of the state" met that criterion, but Clatsop and other coastal counties quickly came forward and argued that they'd been unfairly left out.
Clatsop County has seen the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the entire state for the past eight years, but that initially didn't appear to be enough to qualify. County commissioner Mark Kujala told KGW in January that it seemed like Clatsop had been "kind of carved out" of the order.
"We've really been left to our own devices and we're doing all we can to combat it, but we need some assistance," he said.
Counties are able to ask for inclusion by submitting a formal request, and Clatsop County's request has now been granted. In a news release, the county said Kotek's office had sent notice that the county meets bar for inclusion.
"Clatsop County has the highest share of homelessness among their general population when compared to other Oregon counties and we are very pleased that the governor recognizes the great need we have to address this critical problem," Kujala said in a statement Thursday.
The county said it had been added based on a longer set of criteria, including the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in the county, the high percentage of those people who are unsheltered and the fact that the county has already declared its own local homelessness state of emergency.
Kotek's emergency order allows for the creation of an "incident command structure" similar to the kind of emergency management team that state or local leaders would convene to coordinate interagency responses to a natural disaster.
Lincoln County commissioners also spoke in January about the need to be added to the emergency declaration and sent a letter to Kotek to that effect, but there's no word yet on whether that county will also be included.
Editor's note: the video in the media player above originally aired on January 19., 2023.