It's Unclear Whether County or City Will Fund Behavioral and Mental Health Services for Safe Rest Villages

Both the county and city say they’re discussing contractors and operators for the site this week.

As the Portland vision for safe rest villages continue to develop at a crawl—three locations will be announced by the end of September, according to Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office—it’s still unclear who local governments will contract to help manage the camps.

Denis Theriault, a spokesperson for the Joint Office of Homeless Services, tells WW that negotiations with potential operators are ongoing and that “things are moving along, but still being worked through.”

It’s still also unclear who will provide behavioral and mental health services at the sites, whether they’ll use city or county dollars to do so, and if those services will be provided by the operators or other contractors.

In May, when Sam Adams first told WW about the plan for safe rest villages, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury sharply criticized it. But ten days later, on June 1, Ryan and Kafoury sent out a joint statement signaling their intent to erect these sites in harmony with one another.

Ryan initially said that sites would begin construction in September. But earlier this week, his office announced that three of the sites would be announced by the end of the month—and those sites are still being decided upon.

The basics that are promised: The sites will each have individual sleeping structures, hygiene and laundry services, community spaces and behavioral and mental health resources.

The city floated an early dollar figure for the villages: $20 million worth of the city’s available American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

But it remains unclear if that money will also cover the promised mental and behavioral health contractors, how long those contracts will last, and whether it will be city or county dollars that will be used to pay for the contractors.

Margaux Weeke, a spokesperson for Ryan’s office, says that “[We] are working through these details with the county this week. Safe Rest Villages will provide wraparound services—including mental and behavioral health services—and Commissioner Ryan is proud to have a partner in Chair Kafoury and Multnomah County to provide these services.”