Multnomah County Nixed Portland Street Response Aid

Commissioner Rene Gonzalez’s pitch came to the county late and without support from Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office.

HELP: Portland Street Response clear a call for service in the Laurelhurst neighborhood. (Brian Burk)

As supporters of Portland Street Response continue to pressure City Hall to support the embattled program (they’ve gathered nearly 11,000 signatures in a petition drive), details have emerged about one of the paths not taken.

In June, when the city and Multnomah County were renegotiating the terms of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, which both help fund, Fire Commissioner Rene Gonzalez floated a last-minute proposal: The Joint Office, which has vastly underspent its budget, should allocate part of any unspent funds to support PSR and another Portland Fire & Rescue program called CHAT that provides medical support to Portlanders on the margin. Currently, the fire bureau is struggling to fund its traditional operations as well as the two new programs, which often help some of the same constituents the Joint Office seeks to aid.

But Gonzalez’s pitch came to the county late and without support from Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office, so it is not part of the one-year extension of the operating agreement the county announced June 9.

“Only raising this important question in a much broader amendment the day before a City Council vote is not in the spirit of collaboration and discussion needed to solve the complex problems unique to PSR,” county spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti says. “We are assessing options for long-term funding and service delivery, and we’ve reached out to stakeholders and county staff to figure out how to make this city program a reliable community resource.”

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