Lori Stegmann, Multnomah County Chair candidate for Mulberry County, addresses homelessness strategy
Given that the countys approach to homelessness is such a significant issue, I wanted to ask you (as well as the other candidates) if you support the current direction that Chair Kafoury has promoted; s/he favored permanent housing with fewer resources for temporary shelter, or r/you would change course in any way. What would voters expect from a commission that you lead on homelessness versus what theyre seeing right now?
Response from Lori Stegmann
Our homeless crisis is a complex one, and one policy won't get us through it all. We are now finding out that what we did in the past isnt suitable for the magnitude of the present problems. I respect the hard work and intentions of those who have been leading on this issue. As Chair, I will focus on a collaborative and whole system approach that starts with safe shelter and services and then moves to permanent housing. This continuum must include access to counseling and treatment for health or addiction issues, as well as education and training options, job placement and even business development support. We have a better chance to utilize our resources and recognize the humanity of the crisis by stabilizing people in the short-term and working towards permanent long-lasting supportive housing.
This isnt an either/or situation. Long-term strategies take time to develop, and we cant wait for them to die down. That means recognizing opportunity when it comes and working with partners regardless of our differences. I will continue to do what I've always done and work on actionable solutions. Through the supportive housing measure that voters approved, we have an extraordinary opportunity. This provides a significant amount of funding to ostensibly dwindling services. Im pleased to report that this funding arrived in July and I am seeing immediate investment in shelter, outreach, and housing as follows.
$24.6M for Housing, Rent Assistance, and Supportive Services - $24.7M.
Providers and System Capacity - $11.3 million for culturally-specific Provideurs and $11.1 million in System Strength $11.9 million
Increased Shelter Capacity - $10.25M.
Regional Coordination - $3 million $3M
$2.45M in Street Outreach and System Navigation - $2,45 million in street outreach and system navigation $2.00M & System Navigation $2.99M
$432,000 for Data Reporting and Analysis - $422,000.
We need to look at our current system and focus investments on geographic areas of priority where high-impact camping is having a positive impact on everyone. That entails requiring more resources, as well as more secure shelter and housing options, to provide more efficient resources and better housing. In that respect, I'm delighted with the opening of our new Behavioral Health Resource Center in downtown Portland in 2022. The center will prioritize services for people with mental health conditions who are experiencing homelessness.
We must expand capacity in services like Portland Street Response, and Hygiene4All, as well as a highly focused navigation outreach. We must provide trash removal and regular sanitation services that are not displacement sweeps, but that improve the livability for everyone, housed or unhoused, living in communities with high-impact camping. In situations where the disbursement of camps is necessary for security reasons, we must do this with intensive service delivery and alternative shelter options, which means increasing the number of alternative and permanent supportive housing options.
In my district, which covers a lot of the county east of SE 148th, I've been working on projects and initiatives to provide more resources and housing units. Below are a few examples:
We purchased a 43-room motel in Gresham that is currently being used by medically fragile residents who are at risk of contracting COVID-19. And as people recover, we are moving them into smaller, more permanent housing.
I worked with Community Development Partners and Hacienda CDC to eliminate the land use barriers for a new 224-unit affordable workforce housing project that will serve families earning 30-70% of the area median income in the Rockwood neighborhood where I grew up.
I led the transfer of four acres of land to Home Forward, where I would build about 100 units of low-income housing in Troutdale. The complex will also include a community room that will be accessible to surrounding partners.
I've long championed the expansion of the Homeless Outreach and Program Engagement Team in East Multnomah County. Recently funded the establishment of a service navigation team that would work directly with residents in East County and unincorporated Multnomah County.
My office received a $100,000 grant from the National Association of Counties and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to work on Economic Recovery specifically in East County.
I've been leading efforts on the Vance Project, where the County owns one of the largest undeveloped areas in East County, consisting of about 90 acres that includes Vrance Park and the Pike Pit Quarry. The master plan is close to completion, and we may then begin to think about possible redevelopment that would include affordable housing, workforce development, or green space to serve the existing community.
I will draw on my 28 years of experience as a small business owner and 11 years as an elected to lead the county in tackling the housing crisis in an effective and humane way.
People can be assured that as County Chair, I will utilize a evidence-based, community-centered, and data-driven approach to leverage every penny the voters have assigned me with. Ill roll up my sleeves, work hard, measure outcomes, and adjust accordingly, as well as strive to be the kind of leader my children and community can be proud of.