Governor sets expectations for Portland mayor on homeless funds

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:07 PM PDT
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ST. HELENS Ore. (KPTV)- Gov. Tina Kotek says she is not quite ready to commit state funding to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s bold plans to set up six sanctioned campsites in Portland.

On Wednesday, Gov. Kotek took questions from reporters in St. Helens after visiting Columbia County after the state legislature approved $200 million spending bill Tuesday night to fund her homelessness emergency declaration.

Gov. Kotek said she needs to see more concrete plans from Multnomah County and the City of Portland on how the two governing bodies would utilize the funds.

This comes after Mayor Wheeler raised concerns with Kotek a little over a week ago about the state not funding the sanctioned campsites being set up in the city.

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In a recent letter obtained by FOX 12 from Mayor Wheeler to Gov. Kotek, the Mayor made his case to Kotek about the benefit of the sanctioned campsites he is trying to set up in Portland, saying in part: “We see our Temporary Alternative Shelter sites as filling this critical gap in services. Currently this program is ineligible for the $155 million in funding that you have proposed…”

The mayor’s letter was dated March 13, and the spending package making its way through the legislature was less at that time.

On a state website outlining the Governor’s homelessness emergency declaration, her office says tents cannot be funded under the emergency declaration, but rather sleeping pods or tiny homes that have heat, electricity and a lockable door. Gov. Kotek says her vision for funding sanctioned sites is cut and dry with Mayor Wheeler.

“I assume the camp will be a part of that conversation, and what we communicated to the Mayor was, we want to fund pods, we don’t want to fund tents,” said Kotek. “If you have pods, and you’re working with the county and you’re doing this together, then you’re on a likely path to get funded.”

But a Mayor Wheeler’s plans for the sanctioned sites right now are designed for up to 100 tents able to accommodate 150 people. But Gov. Kotek feels these plans should involve more permanent shelters.

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“We’ve seen them all over town, he knows exactly what we’re talking about when we say pods,” said Kotek. “We’ve been connecting with the folks that make these things, we can get them there.”

A spokesperson from Wheeler’s office did say coordinating with the county to set up a site for pods so state funding could be used is a possibility. Kotek says she needs to see more concrete plans with clear collaboration between Portland and Multnomah County before funding is even guaranteed.

“We need to be sure they get outcomes with the funding we want to give them.”

Kotek also says she plans to sign the $200 million spending bill into law next week.