Homeless plan (copy)

Tents line the sidewalk as people gather along NE Second Street in Bend in 2022.

Gov. Tina Kotek invoked her emergency management plan for Oregon’s five regions with the greatest number of unhoused people during the cold spell in February, when the Portland metro area was hit with an unexpected snowfall.

She herself convened the regional multiagency coordination (MAC) group for the three Portland area counties, via video link because of the storm’s after-effects. She said she concluded there was room for improvement within the counties, and among the counties.

“There will be direct contacts from those (county) groups at a regional multiagency table,” she told reporters on Tuesday, Feb. 28. “I was there to set expectations about the work in all three counties, because they have to work as a region.”

She said more than 800 people descended on Portland and Multnomah County seeking shelter and other services during the storm and put an added burden onto the city and county.

“The more that Washington and Clackamas counties can do on their end for warming shelters can help spread the responsibility of helping individuals when we have severe weather events,” Kotek said.

“I am hoping that the regional MAC will provide that table. The resources already out there can be combined with state resources for more specific planning to help the region make more progress on reaching the outcomes of preventing homelessness and moving folks from homelessness to housing. I am optimistic that the three counties are committed to that.”

The other regions are Central Oregon, three counties; Salem, two counties, and Eugene/Springfield and Medford/Ashland, one county each.

One of Kotek’s first executive orders issued Jan. 10 set up the five regions, where more than 75% of Oregon’s 18,000 unhoused people originate, according to the 2022 point-in-time count. Kotek acknowledged that the count is “incomplete,” but is the best that officials have to work with.

The regional response is modeled on the state’s emergency management system, where there is a single clearinghouse for each disaster known as incident command.

Though Kotek herself convened the first Portland regional MAC meeting, she said her designees will work with both the three-county regional and the individual counties. '

The designees are Andrea Bell, director of the Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services, and Matt Garrett, interim director of the Oregon Department of Emergency Management. Garrett has filled a trouble shooting role for state government since he stepped down in 2019 after 14 years of leading the Oregon Department of Transportation. Gov. Kate Brown named Garrett to oversee the state’s response after the 2020 Labor Day wildfires that swept through Oregon.

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