Multnomah County Bought +22,000 Tents for Local Houseless Population, Lawsuit Shows

December 7, 2022

The Multnomah County government will decrease the number of tarps, tents, and other supplies given to local nonprofits to distribute among Portland’s houseless community, according to the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS).

The news accompanied headlines citing the more than 22,000 tents and 69,000 tarps purchased at a cost of more than $2 million for the homeless over the past two years.

The Daily Journal of Commerce (DJOC) quotes a county spokesperson as explaining, “With public buildings, day centers, libraries, even coffee shops closed, and shelters operating at reduced capacity to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the JOHS used relief funds to provide emergency supplies to people to be able to survive outside until vaccines and reopening.”

Local attorney John DiLorenzo has filed a federal lawsuit to compel the city to remove tents on sidewalks, arguing this practice violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Funding for the purchases was reduced from $3.1 million to $1.2 million in the budget that took effect on July 1st, and in August, organizations distributing the supplies were notified by email that they could not visit the warehouse as often and that limits would be placed on the number of items that could be picked up each visit.

“We continue to offer life-saving supplies during weather events, as well as work with groups all year to assist those still facing exposure daily as staff and budget allows,” the county spokesperson told the DJOC.

However, DiLorenzo points out, these efforts have a significant impact on another segment of the population.

“The city should terminate its relationship with the JOHS and, instead, use its dues to finance its shelter first policy and keep the sidewalks clear of obstructions so those with disabilities can have their lives back,” DiLorenzo told the DJOC.