Housing Advocate Says Metro’s Effort to Avoid Referring Homeless Services Measure Is “Mind Boggling”

A coalition explicitly asks Metro to refer a measure in 2020.

A housing advocate took aim at the regional government Metro for seeking to delay or avoid referring a ballot measure for homeless services, calling the strategy "mind boggling."

“Thousands of ppl’s lives hang in the balance. Do better!” wrote Israel Bayer, director of International Network of Street Papers North America, and former executive director of Street Roots, the Portland newspaper sold by houseless vendors.

"The @oregonmetro response to a potential winning housing measure is mind boggling," Bayer continued. "It's the moral responsibility of elected leaders to represent the ppl. The ppl want to give individuals/families a safe place to call home. Thousands of ppl's lives hang in the balance. Do better!"

"Politics shouldn't be put over people," adds Bayer, who helped champion the Portland housing bond in 2016, which was then followed by Metro's housing bond.

Metro, the regional government extending over three counties in the Portland area, is quarreling with advocates about when a homeless services measure should go on the ballot.

In an official response to Metro sent Dec. 12, the coalition called Here Together, which is advocating for new resources for homeless services, explicitly asked Metro to refer a measure next year.

That's a rejoinder to a Dec. 10 letter sent by Metro President Lynn Peterson and the six Metro Council members to Here Together, outlining obstacles to a 2020 homeless services measure. They cited the need for $1.3 million in funding to craft the measure, and said it would take nine months to two years for the process to play out at the regional government.

Metro is currently working to refer a 2020 transportation measure, though the Metro Council's letter did not include that fact.

Related: Regional Government Metro Pushes Back on Pressure to Refer Homeless Services Measure to Ballot Next Year

Metro spokesman Jim Middaugh noted that all the members of Metro Council have signed onto the Here Together coalition's basic framework.

"Metro is working hard to deliver housing for up to 12,000 Oregonians," he says in reference to the housing bond. "The letter outlined the steps we need to turn these principles into reality."

The Dec. 12 coalition response takes aim at Metro's reasons for a delay, including the need for more study to officially determine whether homelessness was a key issue for the region. In fact, they cited Metro's already completed research on the issue, titled: "Tri-County Equitable Housing Strategy to Expand Supportive Housing for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness."

"We know the time is now – not just because the politics and policy are aligned with a strong coalition – but because every hour we wait is a direct threat to human lives," reads the letter to Metro Council signed by Robert Stoll, Board Chair, and Katrina Holland, Board member and Advisory Committee Chair, of Here Together.

"HereTogether urges Metro to work with us as a partner in moving a measure to the voters in 2020."

According to Metro's own polling, 93 percent of area residents believe homelessness is an extremely or very serious issue in the region while far few fewer (71 percent) said traffic was as serious.

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