Dan Saltzman got the message loud and clear yesterday after his colleagues on the Portland City Council unanimously approved a $300,000 step toward what he hopes will be a $2 million burst of one-time spending on targeted homelessness programs.
"Reading between the lines," he says, he's confident all those votes will still be there when he formally introduces the rest of the package this fall, during the next of the council's regularly scheduled budget updates.
"I think so," he told me.
And that's why, as he mentioned yesterday during the vote, he's convening a small advisory group to help him figure out the best way to divvy up and dispense that largesse. As we've reported, spending that cash won't be any problem now that the city is grinning its way through news of a surplus that could top $11 million.
He sent over the list of people he's invited to join up—with the caveat that not everyone's RSVP'd back yet. Of note, County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury will be on the panel with Saltzman—important because she's officially promised, at the urging of groups like Street Roots, to scare up county money for the same thing. He's also invited Nick Christensen, a Metro reporter and member of the Lents Neighborhood Association—showing some interest in addressing the longstanding camps that have sprouted up in East Portland.
Saltzman expects the group to meet twice in the next few weeks to help him refine a rough plan for the spending that the Mercury first reported on last month.
So far, he's targeted rent assistance and clearing shelter space, especially for women on the streets, and counseling and outreach to groups like street kids. He doesn't have dates yet—no surprise given that he doesn't know all the calendars his office will need to coordinate. But the mandate will be clear.
"This will help flesh it out," he said of his "broad strokes" plan from last month. "Or maybe they'll say these broad strokes aren't the right strokes. What can we do that's most effective."
Saltzman did acknowledge one omission on his list of invitees: None of the people he's chosen are currently on the streets or fresh from living there. But that's because, he says, he and Mayor Charlie Hales will be having a separate meeting with currently homeless advocates on October 4. The meeting is part of Hales' ongoing informational sessions on homelessness.
Josh Alpert, one of Hales' senior aides, has confirmed the meeting and said it's related to discussions on how to spend money. Advocates had long pushed for that kind of session.
"As we continue to figure out solutions, and as more money becomes available," says Alpert, "we want to know where best to put this money. We have our assumptions but that doesn't mean they're necessarily right."
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