Bianca Gudino and Maggy Johnston with Arches check on unsheltered people as temperatures continue to drop on Nov. 10, 2022, in Salem.

Gov. Tina Kotek signed three executive orders on her first afternoon as Oregon governor, all aimed at reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness in the state.

At least 18,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Oregon, according to the 2022 Point in Time count. In Salem, volunteers for the year’s Point in Time connected with 1,805 people, a 15% increase compared to 2021.

Kotek declared a state of emergency due to homelessness. The ongoing crisis is one that Republicans and Democrats have said they will also prioritize in the upcoming legislative session.

“To reduce homelessness and its impacts, this declaration of emergency is necessary to rapidly expand the state’s low-barrier shelter capacity, to rehouse people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and to prevent homelessness to the greatest extent possible,” the declaration states.

A person sleeps on a pedestrian bridge over West 18th Avenue in Eugene on the same day that Gov. Tina Kotek announced plans she hopes will help alleviate the homeless crisis in Oregon.

The order directs the state’s Department of Emergency Management to activate the State’s Emergency Operations plan and coordinate the use of funds and resources to reduce the level of unsheltered people in Oregon. It also directs the agency to set up a framework to support ongoing reduction after the state of emergency ends.

Oregon Housing and Community Services will direct $40 million to respond to the emergency, although it is not clear what exactly the repurposed funds will be used for.

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