Gov. Tina Kotek has added two rural counties to her homelessness state of emergency so the state emergency management department can help coordinate state and local response to the homelessness crisis there.
Kotek announced Friday that Malheur County, with about 31,000 residents in southeastern Oregon, will join the primarily urban counties in the state of emergency she declared in January. Clatsop County, with 41,000 residents on the northwest coast, was added in late February.
All counties stand to receive a portion of the $200 million for housing and homelessness from a legislative proposal backed by Kotek that passed the House on Wednesday and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Tuesday. The proposal includes $85.2 million for the counties covered by the emergency order and $27.4 million for rural counties.
The original state of emergency applied to the Portland area, central Oregon and Lane, Jackson, Marion and Polk counties, home to Eugene, Medford and Salem. Kotek chose those counties because homelessness in those areas increased by more than 50% between 2017 and 2022, and about three-quarters of the 18,000 homeless Oregonians live in those areas.
Since then, Kotek and Oregon Housing and Community Services have considered adding counties to the emergency order if at least 30 households are homeless and unsheltered, and if unsheltered people make up 80% or more of the county’s total homeless population.
In Malheur County, 141 people lack shelter, and they make up 83% of the county’s homeless population. Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce, the chair of the county commission, led the county in declaring a local emergency.
“Malheur County has an overwhelming rate of unsheltered homeless people who need a leg up through shelter and services,” Joyce said in a statement.
Clatsop County counted 529 homeless people in 2022, and 99% of the homeless population lacks shelter, according to that county’s emergency declaration.
“Clatsop County has the highest share of homelessness among their general population when compared to other Oregon counties and we are very pleased that the governor recognizes the great need we have to address this critical problem,” Mark Kujala, chair of the Clatsop County board of commissioners, said in a statement.
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