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Social Workers say NO to Budget cuts

Multnomah County has been in a financial crisis since 2001. This year alone, $30 million has been cut from essential human and social services. Last week, the county announced that an additional $462,000 would be cut from an already reduced budget of $1.2 million for homeless youth services.
These services currently include a wide range of services such as food, shelter, clothing, case management, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, education and employment. Repeated budget cuts are compromising the ability for these services to be effectively administered, if at all. The resulting frequent changes to services create instability for clients who already lack any sense of constancy, a major barrier to getting off the streets.

With unemployment rising, the need for these services is growing. The possibility of achieving positive outcomes is decreasing, and more and more youth are finding themselves with nowhere to turn to meet their basic needs. "Greenhouse has been my home for five years." says "Jack" a 19 year old transgendered youth originally from Troutdale, OR. "Now I'm losing my home, my meds, and my drug treatment, and I don't understand why." "Jack" fears that he will relapse and end up back in jail, a service far more expensive for the average taxpayer. Budget cuts to social services mean that it is more likely for homeless youth to become homeless adults and that other systems such as jails and hospitals will be overwhelmed due to lack of preventative measures. These systems are not prepared to offer appropriate interventions to the types of issues commonly faced by the homeless.

"Julie" was once a cheerleader at Franklin High School. After coming out to her family last year she was kicked out of her home. She stayed with friends as long as she could before her only option became sleeping under the Burnside Bridge with her new "street family". She began prostituting for food money and, later, to support her heroin addiction, her only means of coping with her situation. On a cold and rainy Portland night, Yellow Brick Road, a group of outreach workers, found her and brought her to Greenhouse, a drop-in center serving homeless youth that will soon be cut due to insufficient funding. "I thought I was finally going to get my life back together, but now I may have no choice but to return to the streets." While her former squad mates will be engaged in a longer school year in 2003-4 thanks to the passage of Measure 26-48, the programs Julie participates in will not be benefiting from any of the additional revenue brought in by the tax increase.

On Thursday June 12th, 2003 at 9:30 am County Commissioners will be meeting to finalize the 2003-4 Multnomah County budget. Commissioners have stated that they strongly support the replacement of $100,000 of previously cut funds back into homeless youth services. Hundreds of workers from all parts of the social service industry, concerned citizens, homeless youth, community leaders, and supporters from the Industrial Workers of the World and Portland Survival will be gathering to participate in the meeting's public forum and to hold a rally to demand adequate funding, no job losses, and restored services. Workers welcome the return of partial funding, but are adamant that the County Commissioners are not taking the crisis seriously enough and that $100,000 is just a drop in the bucket. Workers will be assembling at 8:30am at the Multnomah County building at 501 SE Hawthorne.

homepage: homepage: http://www.portlandsurvival.org