Portland mayor proposes half a million dollars for homeless response team

(KATU Photo)

Mayor Ted Wheeler unveiled his budget proposal Wednesday for 2019-2020, which included $500,000 for a street response team.

"This is a really big day for Portland," said Kaia Sand, the executive director of Street Roots, a local newspaper sold by the homeless.

Sand was influential in working with the mayor's office to make this funding a priority.

"Our city demanded from our political leadership that we take a more constructive systematic approach to street crisis," said Sand.

Wheeler said the money would be used for a street response team that would include medics, nurses, crisis professionals and peer support.

It would affect 911 dispatch when taking mental health crisis calls or reports of homeless on the streets.

"People are calling 911 for all manner of things, and the first thing that has to happen is when the call comes in to the bureau of emergency communications, the call has to come in to first responders, and right now, overwhelmingly, the default responder is armed police officers," said Wheeler.

"People want a constructive, compassionate, smart response. We don’t want to keep driving people further and further into crisis; we want to send out the right first responders," said Sand.

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