Gov. Kotek pushes for $155 million homeless spending bill
SALEM Ore. (KPTV) - In public testimony Tuesday, Gov. Tina Kotek urged state lawmakers to pass a bill which would distribute $155 million statewide for reducing homelessness.
It remains one of the governor’s top priorities after she declared a homelessness state of emergency during her first days in office last month. Part of that declaration was calling on lawmakers to pass a bill with funds for fighting homelessness.
After her testimony in front of the House Committee on Housing and Homelessness, Kotek said the funding would be a big step in the right direction.
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“The $155 million package will keep people from becoming homeless, help people who are experiencing homelessness get into shelter, folks who are into shelter helping them get into housing.”
Highlights of the package, HB 5019, include over $85 million to rehouse people experiencing homelessness and creating more shelter space, over $33 million to prevent homelessness, estimated to help over 8700 households, and over $27 million to combat homelessness in more rural parts of the state. The governor also says in order for these state funds to be given out, cities, counties, and other local agencies need to be united in their plans to end homelessness.
“For us to apply additional resources to any part of the state, we need to understand that we’re going to see new outcomes,” said Kotek. “It’s not just about the resources, it’s about how we work together.”
Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pedersen says she is already working with city officials in Portland on efforts to reduce homelessness in Portland’s city center, but says extra funds from the state will make a huge difference.
“It’s going to be Multnomah County’s way of getting these dollars into action and really addressing the issue of unsheltered homelessness in areas of the city where we know there is an intense need including our Central City and East County,” said Pedersen.
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Pedersen says she looks forward to the extra shelter space the new state dollars could help provide, getting more people off the streets and connecting them to outreach workers. She also says the state investment will help people from having to live on the streets in the first place.
“The second piece is the prevention of becoming homeless,” she said. “We expect to serve about 2000 people just in Multnomah County alone with these state dollars.”
According to Gov. Kotek, the next steps for the funding bill is to be heard in the state legislature’s Joint Ways and Means committee.
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