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What will Metro's new homeless tax really do?

The measure will help 5,000 people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing, and help 10,000 households with a range of 'wraparound' services.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The money from Metro's homeless services tax measure that passed last year is supposed to start rolling in soon, so KGW wanted to take a closer look at how that money will be spent. 

Funds for the measure are collected with a 1% income income tax on people who make $125,000 per year or couples who earn $200,000 combined. It also includes a 1% tax on businesses that generate $5 million per year.

It'll include a "range of interventions," according to Metro's Regional Housing Director Patricia Rojas. 

"Everything from actually paying rent assistance, getting folks into housing, it could be health services, employment services, it could be shelter beds," Rojas said. "It could be any range of interventions that we know help prevent homelessness."

RELATED: Portland metro area homeless services tax passes: Who pays and how will the money be spent?

Some of those efforts may sound familiar, because they are.

"We know that a lot of what we're doing works, the data tells us that," Rojas said. "What we also know is that it's nowhere near the scale. So this is an opportunity to scale interventions and strategies that we know end homelessness. So that's one part of this. This is going to scale our community's infrastructure for services and will also begin to look at building new infrastructure that doesn't exist today."

The question on the minds of many Portlanders who have seen homelessness grow over the past few years is simple: Is this enough money to at least stop the growth of homelessness?

"I do think it's important to differentiate what this measure does and what the voters paid for," Rojas said. "What this tax measure will pay for are interventions that will end homelessness and also prevent people from going into homelessness to begin with. There are addiction prevention measures incorporated into this and a lot of that is happening in our community and we get to expand it. So what the measure contemplated was that we would be able to place about 5,000 people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing and serve an additional 10,000 households with a range of services from prevention, the other wraparound services, to help folks stay housed."

RELATED: A month into pilot program, Portland Street Response Team brings hope to the streets

The last time Multnomah County did a "Point In Time" in 2019, they estimated there were 4,015 people experiencing homelessness and 2,037 of those people were sleeping somewhere outside.

We don't know what the numbers are right now nearly two years after that count, but economists at Columbia University predicted a 40-45% rise in homelessness nationwide through 2020.

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