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Regional Interests

Proposed Oregon task force would look at race and homelessness, services

Tents line a sidewalk in Northeast Portland. Legislation proposed by Oregon Democrats would make it easier to approve homeless shelters, and harder to sweep away tent dwellings.
Tents line a sidewalk in Northeast Portland. Legislation proposed by Oregon Democrats would make it easier to approve homeless shelters, and harder to sweep away tent dwellings.

Oregon lawmakers are seeking to establish a 19-member task force on homelessness that will be charged with looking at racial disparities in services provided by the state and how accessible they are.

On a 46-13 vote, members of the Oregon House of Representatives passed House Bill 2100 Tuesday. It aims to modernize state laws on how homeless services are distributed.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

According to House Democrats, this would be the first major update to Oregon statutes on homeless services in 30 years.

The bill would direct this new task force to submit a report of its findings to the legislature by January 15, 2022, and require Oregon Housing and Community Services and Oregon Housing Stability Council to take advice on programming from experts and organizations that work within the realm of equity and inclusion.

Rep. Wlnsvey Campos, D-Aloha, carried the bill on the floor and said she’s seen firsthand, in her work as a case manager for Family Promise of Beaverton, the disparities and policy failures that allow Oregonians to slip through cracks in the state’s safety net and into homelessness.

“This is an opportunity for us to turn the page and build a framework for culturally-responsive and equitable services, focusing on the outcomes for Oregonians experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and bringing more seats to the table to address this crisis,” Campos said in a statement. “We are centering people and their humanity.”

The bill would direct the task force to identify ways in which Oregonians who are Black, Indigenous and people of color are disproportionately impacted by housing instability, to find solutions for the state to implement in its distribution of services and to codify those solutions within the State Homelessness Assistance Program and Emergency Housing assistance program.

“The current model of distributing these resources does not give BIPOC Oregonians experiencing homelessness the comprehensive support that they need,” said Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene. “We want to break this cycle by ensuring that culturally-specific providers can best support the communities they serve.”

HB 2100 would also carve out 25% of document recording fees deposited into the emergency housing fund to go toward emergency housing assistance for veterans who are unhoused or at risk of becoming homeless. Additionally, the bill requires that federal housing stabilization funding be distributed proportionately statewide based on need and geographic formulas.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting