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Will lawmakers dig deep on homelessness?

By KTVZ.COM news sources
Published On: Jun 21 2013 01:07:04 AM CDT

REDMOND, Ore. -

The state emergency funds used to help people in crisis housing situations have been cut since 2009, even as the need has grown in Oregon.

Now, lawmakers are being asked to restore those funds to their 2007 levels.

Two programs -- the Emergency Housing Account (EHA) and the State Homeless Assistance Program (SHAP) -- are used to help with rent or mortgage, or for emergency shelter.

In Redmond, Scott Cooper, executive director of NeighborImpact, says Central Oregon is recovering more slowly than other parts of the state, and every penny available is put to use.

"We get about 3,500 calls a year looking for help, and with the EHA money we receive, we are able to house about 140 of them," he says. "So there's a big gap between what we're asked for and what we get."

The two funds have been trimmed by a few percentage points a year, and restoring them to pre-recession levels means finding an additional $4 million.

A coalition of advocates known as the Housing Alliance says these funds are effective use of state money, because they are administered locally and directly to prevent or end homelessness.

Melissa Erlbaum directs Clackamas Women's Services, helping domestic violence survivors in Clackamas County. She says getting them into safe, affordable housing is a critical first step to recovery.

"One of the biggest needs is to have a safe, confidential shelter to go to," she says, "or to have the financial stability to prevent them from becoming homeless. So oftentimes, these types of resources are used to prevent homelessness in the first place."

This late in the session, the only way more funding will happen is if there's money left over after the major state agency budgets are passed. Then, the Ways and Means Committee chairs make decisions about how to divvy up any remaining dollars.

Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service prepared this story

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