BBPDX Board Members Support Portland Street Response Funding

May 8, 2019

Dear Mayor Wheeler and Commissioners Eudaly, Fish, Fritz, and Hardesty,

We are extremely thankful for the hard work your offices are doing to address the housing emergency in our city. Business for a Better Portland (BBPDX) is committed to prioritizing the housing and homelessness crisis, not only because it is a humanitarian imperative but also because it is essential to the future success of our city and businesses. We see how the high arrests of unhoused people and the resulting legal entanglements drive people deeper into poverty, including creating barriers to housing and employment.

Addressing the root causes of homelessness instead of focusing on short term solutions is our focus at BBPDX. We support a collaborative approach that recognizes the value that government agencies, nonprofits, foundations and businesses bring to the table.

We are writing today, as business owners, to inform you that we believe more can be done. The City of Portland should fund the pilot for the Portland Street Response, a system of first responders – teams of medics and peer support specialists with training in de-escalation who can respond with compassion to 911 calls about people struggling with homelessness and behavioral health crises.

Our experiences and encounters with those who are homeless prove that not every crisis is a crime. We need to match the right first responder to the crisis. The Portland Street Response that we support is based on the proven 30-year-old CAHOOTS model in Eugene. To match the first responder activity to the crisis, the teams must be highly trained in crisis response, and the CAHOOTS model can help with this training.

We are asking that the Bureau of Emergency Communications’ pilot program to design the Portland Street Response be funded in this budget. We also ask that the City commit to realizing a fully developed Portland Street Response in the next 18 months, and that we begin to develop the teams and trainings while we are also revamping the 911 system to triage calls.

As business owners, we pay close attention to returns on the investments we make in our business. All of the available data shows the tremendous cost of relying on our law enforcement officers to perform these duties, both in terms of financial burden and resource drain. Investing in a Portland Street Response system will not only provide more effective results and free our existing first responders to perform their other critical functions in our city, it will be more fiscally effective as well.

Thank you very much for your time in considering our requests. We look forward to continuing the conversation.


Anna Hutson
CEO, Avenue
BBPDX Board of Directors

Noah Oken-Berg
CEO, Above the Fray Design, Inc.
BBPDX Associate Board of Directors