PORTLAND, Ore. — Over the weekend, Multnomah County lit the Morrison Bridge orange. It was part of a national day to remember and honor the victims of gun violence.
There have been plenty of those in the past year-and-a-half. Most recently, police found four people shot dead inside a Southeast Portland house Sunday night. In total, Portland has seen 42 homicides in 2021 alone.
“What we know is that the effects of the community violence that we've experienced are devastating,” said Multnomah County Department of Community Justice Director Erika Preuitt.
Preuitt is saddened by the violence and said more support to try and end it is coming.
The county's new budget gives her department $1.2 million to expand a variety of programs including those that target hard-hit BIPOC and Latinx communities, support women, and decrease youth violence.
Some examples include $500,000 to expand the Elevate program for men 18-25 in Latinx and African immigrant communities affected by gangs.
The new budget also allocates $300,000 for three community health specialists to help families connected to gun violence by providing safety plans and trauma support.
Lea Lipscomb is a community health specialist who works with women with criminal histories, delivering the basics they need for themselves or to care for their child.
“When you're in a situation where you feel supported and nurtured you make better choices, it happens for all of u," said Lipscomb. "So when these women have just that basic support, for some women I'm their counselor, they'll call me up and need to just talk about something and I'm one person that's established a relationship with them that they can trust."
Building trust and providing a variety of support services for those already in the criminal justice system is key to helping them lead better lives.
“And when we help people to change their behaviors we not only help them to restore their families, we also help them to build stronger communities,” said Preuitt.
The work is done in collaboration with other partners including the Multnomah County Health Department. Its budget is $2.8 million to target more prevention of community violence. Out of that money, $1.1 million will be used to scale up use of health workers in community-based organizations. Another $1.2 million will be used for a gun violence behavioral health response team to support gang impacted kids and families.
Preuitt said it's all about recognizing the community violence crisis and striving together to end it.
“The only way we are going to be able to recover from the pandemic and historic rates of community violence is to come together and collaborating," Preuitt said. "We will not do it in isolation and we will not do it by dehumanizing each other.”