Old Town business owner not yet ‘optimistic’ as Kotek signs 3 orders addressing homelessness

PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) – On her first day in office, Governor Tina Kotek signed three executive orders to address the homeless crisis statewide and in the Portland metropolitan area.

One of these orders declares the homeless crisis a state of emergency and proposes millions of dollars to invest to get people off the streets.

Jessie Burke owns The Society Hotel and while these orders are reassuring, she wants to do more to address the addiction and mental health crises she sees on the streets every day. It says it needs to be done.

“I think of us as a kind of worst-case scenario of everything,” Burke says.

Burke is CEO of the Old Town Society Hotel and President of the Old Town Community Association. She has also been vocal about dealing with drug use and crime in the area and getting the homeless help they need.

Nearly a year ago, Burke helped the City of Portland develop a 90-day reset plan focused on cleaning up the Old Town and created a central database of available shelter beds in the city. , asked for additional lighting.

Related item: Kotek signs three executive orders focused on the housing and homelessness crisis.

“It’s double,” Burke says of the lighting. “It’s more glamorous, and that’s one of our biggest problems. It’s the dark. When it’s dark, there’s more bad behavior.”

The Old Town reset officially lasted only 90 days, but she says it’s still improving.

Now state leaders are intervening.

In just a few days in office, Governor Kotek signed three executive orders. One declared the homeless crisis a state emergency, and another he directed state agencies to prioritize reducing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness.

Governor Kotek has also set an ambitious goal of building 36,000 homes each year, but Burke says he hasn’t celebrated yet.

“I don’t mean to say I’m optimistic. It’s been 10 days into the new year so it’s encouraging, but as someone who’s on the ground every day, you hear me say it at every press conference. It’s not necessarily a housing crisis, in my opinion,” says Burke.

Together, Cotec’s third order proposes a $130 million investment, hoping to push 1,200 Oregonians off the streets each year and add 600 more beds in shelters.

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Burke believes he will take bolder actions to address more serious issues such as addiction and mental health crises.

“If you believe the outside is just a residence, you’re not involved, you’re not paying attention,” Burke says. It’s not what’s happening outside, and I’d appreciate it if someone could declare an emergency for what’s happening outside.”

Gov. Kotek says access to behavioral health is another part of her plan to get people off the streets.

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