In May 2020, voters in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties overwhelmingly said yes to investing in proven solutions that will help our neighbors surviving outside end their homelessness. The $2.4 billion Supportive Housing Services measure is a landmark investment to fund the tri-county region’s response to chronic and short-term homelessness, and will bring in $52 million to Multnomah County in its first year, to be used during Fiscal Year 2022.

Last month, I unveiled my FY 2022 Executive Budget, which offers a roadmap to investing in urgent strategies that immediately connect people to a home this coming year. Here’s how I’ve allocated the $52 million of first-year funding to be used by our Joint Office of Homeless Services:

  • $24.6 million for housing, rent assistance and supportive services
  • $10.25 million to increase shelter capacity
  • $11.3 million to support culturally specific providers and system capacity
  • $2.45 million to increase street outreach and system navigation services
  • $3 million to regional coordination
  • $0.4 million for more data reporting and analysis

$24.6 million for housing, rent assistance and supportive services

Some people think the only way to help people back into homes is to wait for the housing market to provide us with affordable apartments. We simply can’t wait that long. 

Because people who live outside tell us that, with the right support, they’re ready to move inside today. Right now. And with this budget, that’s exactly what we’ll do.

We can provide rent assistance starting July 1 to help folks afford the homes we already have in our community, and then connect them with support services like mental health care, addiction treatment, case management and job training. 

That's the heart of supportive housing. And providing rent assistance for people to secure a home and receive the services they need to stay in it is a strategy that’s more than quick — it’s cost effective and offers a permanent pathway out of homelessness.

Just this year, the $24.6 million will help 1,300 people living outside get connected to homes, including 800 people experiencing chronic homelessness who will also receive deep, long-term rental subsidies and wraparound health and housing support services. These funds will also help more than 900 households who are currently at risk of losing their home because of an inability to pay their rent once the Oregon eviction moratorium ends.

And this investment includes a substantial $3 million in funding for a new jobs program that will provide housing stability for 100 other people, by hiring them to help clean up public spaces.

$10.25 million to increase shelter capacity

Approximately 20 percent of our planned investments go to short-term shelter solutions, like alternative, motel and traditional sites, which remain important parts of our response system. 

Over the past six years, the Joint Office has doubled the number of year-round shelter beds in this community. And then, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Joint Office kept all of those beds in operation, while also avoiding major outbreaks. With this proposal, we are going to add hundreds more shelter beds over the next year alone.

We also know that traditional congregate shelter isn’t for everyone — some people need different paths back into housing. The funding allocated to increasing shelter capacity includes $3 million to support community ideas for alternative shelter, potentially like the Joint Office’s Kenton Women’s and St. Johns villages. 

Some community members have asked why not fund more shelter beds now, or why not only fund shelter beds. Here’s why: Building shelters — whether they are conventional congregate shelters, sanctioned campsites or other forms of alternative shelter — is not a strategy for ending the homelessness of our neighbors sleeping outside. Every single person in a shelter is still homeless. Our neighbors still need options and places to live after they come to shelter. The only way to end their homelessness is through housing. 

We asked people who are living outside, and they said housing is the number-one thing they need to feel supported by the community. So our main focus remains on using resources to get people into homes and connected to services — it's faster and more cost effective than setting up shelters. And if we shorten how long someone stays in shelter, because more people are being housed, that also helps us make better use of the beds we already have.

$11.3 million to support culturally specific providers and system capacity

Racism, in both its systemic and interpersonal forms, drives the higher rate of homelessness experienced by Black, Indigenous and other people of color. Designing programs to reduce racial disparities improves outcomes for everyone. 

Multnomah County and the Joint Office of Homeless Services partners with culturally specific community-based organizations to provide services that are responsive to a person’s culture, meeting them with services and resources that are more tailored to their experiences and needs. My budget proposes $11.3 million to strengthen, support and expand our culturally specific partners leading that work.

$2.45 million to increase our street outreach and system navigation services

We know the best way to help our neighbors living outside transition into a home of their own is by building relationships and traveling alongside them as they get connected to the services they need. New investments will grow the capacity and effectiveness of our outreach.

This funding will go toward the creation of three new specialized Navigation Teams for street outreach, an expanded Addictions Benefits Coordination Team, and expanded support for volunteer-supported primary care/medical street outreach programs. 

Taken together, this expanded outreach work has the potential to connect nearly 2,000 more people to housing, shelter or health services.

Regional coordination, community engagement and data

For the first time, thanks to funding from the Supportive Housing Services Measure, all three counties in the Metro area — not just Multnomah County — will be able to build a truly comprehensive continuum of services for people experiencing homelessness. We’ll also be able to collaborate with our partners in Clackamas and Washington counties like never before.

My budget invests $3 million to jump-start the work needed to build a regional response to homelessness. Those funds will also help us serve people better by coordinating the important housing work we’re doing across Multnomah County departments, outside the Joint Office.

And those funds will help us continue communicating with the public and engaging with the community — particularly people from communities of color or who have lived experience surviving without shelter. That is essential work as we plan for the next phase of Supportive Housing Housing Services funding coming in July 2022.

Building on that commitment to set us up for long-term success, my budget also proposes more than $400,000 to expand our ability to understand the drivers of homelessness, and show our successes, through easily understandable data points. We will expand the pool of analysts working in the Joint Office, while finally building a data system we can share with our regional partners. 

A plan driven by equity, effectiveness, collaboration

When voters approved the Supportive Housing Services Measure last year, they showed their support for an unprecedented response to our homelessness crisis that drastically scales up our ability to get people into homes and connected to the supports they need to find safety, stability and health.

This plan for investing the first round of funds from that voter-approved measure is grounded in the engagement and voices of hundreds of community stakeholders, including service providers, advocates, local governments and, critically, people who have lived experience of what it’s like to survive outside. 

It’s undeniable that our community is facing an urgent crisis. The strategies that comprise this plan balance and prioritize equity, speed and effectiveness. They reflect the knowledge, desires and lived experience of people throughout our community, and particularly those who are waiting for the help and opportunities to leave their homelessness behind for good.

We have a responsibility to end their homelessness now, and this plan is a monumental step toward achieving that goal.