Malheur County joins Gov. Kotek’s homelessness emergency declaration

MALHEUR COUNTY, Ore. — Malheur County has been added to the growing list of counties included in Oregon’s homelessness state of emergency, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek announced Friday afternoon.

“Malheur County has an overwhelming rate of unsheltered homeless people who need a leg up through shelter and services,” Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce said in a news release. “I am grateful the governor has recognized this need and is answering our call for help in Eastern Oregon.”

After Oregon Housing and Community Services reviewed the county’s data, the department determined Malheur County meets the requirements for inclusion. Kotek approved the county’s request and sent a letter notifying county officials on March 13.

As of 2022, there were 141 people living on the streets of Malheur County, surpassing the state’s minimum requirement of 30 unsheltered households. The rate of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the county in 2022 was 83%, which exceeds the minimum threshold of 80% or more.

The governor also added Clatsop County to the declaration in early March. Clatsop County has seen the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the entire state for the past eight years, but despite that, the county didn’t initially qualify.

Kotek declared a homelessness state of emergency in Oregon shortly after taking office but the declaration didn’t automatically extend to every part of the state. The state of emergency applies to areas where unsheltered homelessness has increased by 50% or more from 2017 to 2022. Counties can be included by submitting a formal request to the Office of Emergency Management. The governor then reviews those requests before deciding whether to approve them.

The declaration frees up more resources and allows for the creation of an “incident command structure” to help tackle the housing crisis.

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