Hawaii and Oregon have a common tourism problem: Homeless people

Hawaii and Oregon have a common tourism problem: Homeless people
A plan to increase funding for homeless services is nearing completion in Oregon at the Multnomah County Commission.

The proposal to dedicate a share of the hotel, motel and motor vehicle rental taxes to social services has already been approved by the Portland City Council and Metro Council. The dedicated funds will pay for service providers to help very low income residents with mental health and other issues stay in housing to be built by Portland and Metro affordable housing bonds.

If approved, the change will initially allocate $2.5 million a year to livability and safety and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness, or at risk of experiencing homelessness. That number will grow over time.

“This funding will pay for livability and supportive services, and related operations costs, supporting programs and projects funded by the proceeds of the City and Metro bonds approved by voters in 2016 and 2018, respectively, to create affordable homes for low-income individuals,” reads an analysis of the measure to be considered by the county. Uses of the taxes are determined by the city, county and Metro.

Anticipating approval of the change, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said, “People living outside are getting older and struggling with disabilities and chronic health conditions. They don’t have the luxury of waiting and neither should we. We know the federal government isn’t going to swoop in and give us the funding we need. So we have to think creatively and identify new revenues across the region, just like this one.”

The new agreement will also fund renovations to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Portland’s Centers for the Arts, local tourism attractions.

Tourists spent $5.3 billion in greater Portland in 2018 and is a huge part of our economy, and we need to make sure we continue to draw visitors from around the world to our great city. Hawaii is in an even worse situations with the largest percentage of homeless people, many residing in areas frequented by visitors.

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