Multnomah County Chairperson Deborah Kafoury.

Multnomah County Chairperson Deborah Kafoury.

John Rosman/OPB

Portland and Multnomah County will create a new joint office to serve homeless people.

The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve an intergovernmental agreement that creates a single team, based at the county, focused on ending homelessness. The agreement, which lasts five years, transfers a number of staffers and contracts from the Portland Housing Bureau to Multnomah County.

For decades, the city has provided services to homeless individuals, while the county has separately provided programs and shelter for homeless families, children and survivors of domestic violence.

“That division simply makes no sense any longer,” said Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who led the effort with County Chair Deborah Kafoury to merge services.

The city and county agreed to each contribute $15 million a year to fund the office, though Kafoury suggested that amount is the bare minimum funding level she’d like to see.

“We put in unprecedented amounts of funding in this year,” Kafoury said. “If we want to make a dent, if we really want to get people off the streets and into housing, we’re going to have to put more money in next year than we did this year.”

The joint team’s work will include providing short-term rent aid to vulnerable people, overseeing efforts to move people out of shelters into permanent housing, and increasing the capacity of Portland area shelters. The team has a goal of adding 650 shelter beds next year.

The agreement doesn’t clarify what will happen to several homeless initiatives that have been run directly by Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and funded through the Office Of Management and Finance, most notably, the proposed new facilities for the Right 2 Dream Too homeless community. 

Portland Housing Bureau Director Kurt Creager suggested that over time, management of Hales’ homeless initiatives will migrate to the new joint office.