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Multnomah County commissioners approve record investment in homeless services from $3.32 billion budget

The community is expected to start seeing the impacts of this new budget as soon as next month, the start of the 2023 fiscal year.

MULTNOMAH COUNTY, Ore. — The largest budget in Multnomah County's history just received a final stamp approval from commissioners, with a record amount of money earmarked for homeless services.

Unanimously, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted to approve a $3.32 billion budget for the next fiscal year. An unprecedented share of that money is going toward addressing three of the county’s most pressing issues: chronic homelessness, behavioral health and violence.

“What this budget funds is a very holistic county-wide approach to people who are experiencing houseless instability,” said Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, Multnomah County’s communications director.

This new budget is up 17% from last year’s and is a welcome change, since the county faced declining budgets over the past two decades which forced them to constantly cut services and staff.

RELATED: Multnomah County chair releases budget proposal

With help from taxes and money from the American Rescue Plan, the county is now expected to begin stabilizing social services, especially those dealing with homelessness.

“What it also does is it addresses some of the community's most pressing concerns that we’ve really seen emerge since COVID,” said Sullivan-Springhetti.

$15.5 million will go towards launching new mental health resources, such as a behavioral health and transitional housing center opening in downtown Portland this fall. Another $1.9 million will go toward expanding a behavioral health pilot program that provides emergency motel shelter beds and crisis case management.

“So, what this budget does is really pull all of those parts of the county together to holistically address some of the issues and get as many people into shelter, behavioral health treatment, and ultimately into the supportive house services that will get them houses and keep them housed,” explained Sullivan-Springhetti.

A record $183.2 million is being invested to roll out a county-wide response to those experiencing homelessness.

$255.5 million will go directly to the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS), which Multnomah County partners on with the City of Portland. Almost half of that funding comes from the voter-approved Metro Supportive Housing Services Measure.

From the JOHS contribution, $130 million will support more that 2,000 year-round shelter beds and $106 million will go toward placing people in permanent housing.

RELATED: Audit: Homeless services group wasted $850K on unsanitary housing for veterans

KGW asked the Joint Office for a more specific accounting of how they will use these funds.

“Part of that funding is not just for operations,” explained Denis Theriault at the JOHS. “That’s for new shelters, also its capital costs — so some of that is building spaces, not just operating the beds that we have. It also shows that shelter is necessary, and we are adding more because we know that there are folks who don’t have another place to go.”

As for staffing these new services and programs, $4.2 million will be set aside for future labor costs affected by inflation and economic uncertainty.

“Staffing is a challenge throughout every sector, so part of what we’re doing is ... the board approved some funding to increase salaries,” said Theriault.

The 2023 fiscal year starts July 1. Because of that, the community is expected to start seeing the impacts of this new budget as soon as next month.

“We’ve turned a corner towards optimism and toward the belief that we can actually do some things around these issues,” added Sullivan-Springhetti.

RELATED: Tri-counties release 1st count of Portland area's homeless population since 2019

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