A Home For Everyone  - Restructuring Proposal

Sharon Meieran, Multnomah County Commissioner, District 1

Last Revised 1/19/2022

Can also be viewed as a PowerPoint (726.62 KB)

  1. Introduction
  • The principle guiding the city of Portland and Multnomah County’s work on homelessness is that everyone needs a safe place to call home

  • However, despite significant work and resources dedicated to combating homelessness over the past decade, especially over the past two years, the situation for people living unsheltered has continued to worsen, and it is dire. 

  • We need a different approach, and in order to support a different approach, we need a different structure informing local government’s policy and budgeting decisions.

  1. The current advisory structure - A Home For Everyone (AHFE)
  • According to its Multnomah County website, the A Home For Everyone (AHFE) coalition was created in 2014 to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including nonprofits, people with lived experience of homelessness, philanthropic organizations, faith organization, the business community, the local housing authority, local government, and more, to develop a comprehensive strategy to address homelessness. The Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) was created to contract with local community-based organizations and translate the AHFE recommendations into action.

  • Although significant progress has been made with regard to increased numbers of shelter beds, housing placements, and homeless prevention efforts, the number of people living unsheltered outside has increased substantially; living conditions for thousands of people do not meet standards of basic human decency; people living on the streets are older and have more serious mental health and addiction challenges than ever before; we are seeing a devastating methamphetamine epidemic; and we are facing the prospect of massive evictions in connection with the COVID pandemic. 

  1. The current advisory structure isn’t working
  • Although significant progress has been made in terms of numbers of shelter beds, housing placements, and homeless prevention efforts, the situation for people living outside, and the community at large, isn’t working:

    • The number of people living unsheltered outside has increased substantially; 

    • Living conditions for thousands of people do not meet standards of basic human decency; 

    • People living on the streets are older and have more serious mental health and addiction challenges than ever before; 

    • We are seeing a devastating methamphetamine epidemic; and 

    • We are facing the prospect of massive evictions in connection with the COVID pandemic. 

  • A number of essential voices are not effectively represented in the current advisory structure, such as Public Health,Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder, people with lived experience of homelessness, nontraditional organizations involved in homeless services, trash cleanup, and more.

  1. Public trust and confidence is waning
  • People have lost confidence in local government’s ability to build collaborative and effective solutions to homelessness for a number of reasons: 

    • People largely do not understand the landscape of government and nonprofit entities engaged in addressing homelessness;

    • They do not feel informed about the strategies being used to combat homelessness;

    • They are confused as to where hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are going when there is a worsening homeless crisis on our streets; 

    • Government commitments, such as strengthened data systems, don’t appear to be kept, with, for example, a recent audit showing significant deficiency in data collection; and 

  • They don’t know where to turn - they feel their calls and emails often go unanswered, and they feel largely unheard. 

  1. We need a new advisory structure​​​​​​
  • The new and improved version of AHFE needs to directly address the deficiencies of the current system.

  • The Joint Office of Homeless Services has proposed changes to the structure and governance of AHFE. I believe their model has some strengths, but also poses some issues.

  • A few key elements have emerged as essential in any advisory structure:

    • Equity, inclusion and representation;

    • Structured and effective communication and coordination;

    • Accountability and oversight; and

    • Accurate and reliable data collection, strategy and management.

      VI. My proposed model for restructuring AHFE

  • Incorporates the identified “key elements” of an advisory body; addresses the deficiencies of our current system; and builds on the strengths of the proposed JOHS model while responding to potential deficits. It is informed by:

    • Feedback from the current Coordinating Board and the Executive Committee of AHFE; 

    • Input from the community at large;

    • Recommendations of a number of grassroots organizations that do front line work with people experiencing houselessness; and 

    • My own experience providing direct medical service to people living outside and my years with AHFE.

  • Please note that my suggestions are only that - suggestions. I hope they can offer perspective for discussion and feedback, and can be considered as we work together to adopt an AHFE structure that meets the needs of our community.

Proposed Structure for AHFE

  1. Workgroups


  • The essential foundation for the advisory body will be the workgroups. They will provide a representative, equitable and structured place for all stakeholders to have a meaningful voice. They will provide an opportunity for open dialogue and discussion that will take into account each group’s particular expertise, experience, needs, and ideas. Representatives from each of the workgroups will sit on a single Coordinating Board (CB), and bring their workgroup’s perspective to the CB. 


  • Consumer Advisory Board - People with lived experience of houselessness, including people with lived experience of mental health issues and substance use disorder and/or who have been formerly incarcerated.
  • Continuum of Care Committee - Representatives from nonprofits engaged in providing services to help people transition into permanent housing, required as part of a housing “Continuum of Care” (COC) enabling counties to gain access to certain federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds. 
  • Faith Community Committee - Representatives from coalitions in the faith community, also representatives from individual faith-based organizations.
  • Health Impact Committee - Governmental agency representatives and also community-based organizations representing mental health and substance use disorder (i.e., Multnomah County Behavioral Health Division), Public Health (i.e., Multnomah County Public Health Division, Environmental Health, Harm Reduction), urban camping and cleanup, sharps collection (Metro).
  • Safety On/Off the Streets Committee - Individuals, organizations and coalitions addressing houselessness who are not represented in the Continuum of Care. For example, Hygiene4All, The Equi Institute, Gather:Make:Shelter, WeShinePDX, mutual aid providers, ShelterNowPDX.
  • Community Advisory Board - Neighborhood groups (including formal neighborhood associations, neighborhood coalitions and informal groups) and individual community members.
  • Business Advisory Board - Representatives from formal and informal business alliances and also individual business owners who would like to participate.

  1. Coordinating Board (CB): 


  • Coordinate the input from all workgroups to make policy and budget recommendations to an Executive Committee around three core strategies:
  1. Homelessness prevention; 
  2. Shelter/safety on and off the streets; and 
  3. Permanent housing. 


  • The CB will include representatives from the stakeholder workgroups. They can consult additional experts and/or advisors as needed. The number of representatives from each workgroup and the total number of CB members can be determined based on stakeholder input, and should be broad enough to be inclusive, but small enough to be able to make decisions effectively and efficiently.  
  1. Executive Committee (EXC):


  • This committee will take recommendations from the Coordinating Board, engage in multi-jurisdictional collaboration, and consolidate into cohesive and coordinated policy and budget recommendations for elected bodies in Multnomah County, Portland and East County jurisdictions. 


  • The EXC will include designated elected officials from Multnomah County, Portland, and East County, along with representation by people with lived experience of houselessness. Other members as determined by stakeholders. Note that any elected official will be welcome to participate in EXC meetings. Elected officials will ultimately make final decisions and vote in their respective bodies. This model provides an inclusive, accessible and meaningful way to receive reliable information on which to base decisions.
    • It is important that there be an EXC in addition to the CB, as much of the policy being discussed will be interjurisdictional, and there needs to be a space where elected officials can convene to collaborate and engage in discussion that takes into account their responsibilities to their constituents and the region as a whole. 
    • Note that the specific policies for each jurisdiction need not be the same, as different jurisdictions have different needs. But the work throughout the County should be coordinated, with a shared understanding by all jurisdictional partners, and there needs to be a body in which this shared understanding is developed and decided on.
  1. Equity Committee (EQC):


  • To hold every individual and entity involved in AHFE to account in ensuring that equity and inclusion of people historically marginalized, underserved and who have been oppressed through inherently racist systems and institutions are prioritized in all of the work being done around homelessness. To ensure that all aspects of AHFE are anti-racist and continue to advance our approaches and broaden our thinking around equity and inclusion. 


  • This committee will include representation from historically underserved and marginalized communities, including those who are Black, Indigenous, immigrant and refugee, other people of color, other ethnic minority groups, LGBTQIA+ individuals, people with disabilities, and others who have faced historic and ongoing oppression and marginalization. 
  • There must also be equitable representation by individuals from these communities on each of the workgroups and at the CB. The mechanism for determining how the Equity Committee is selected and can best engage with the CB and EC, along with the process for ensuring equity is at the forefront in determining membership of each of the workgroups, can be further discussed, with emphasis on direct involvement of representatives from impacted communities. 
  1. Oversight Board 


  • To oversee all of the different committees, including how they intersect and coordinate, and hold them accountable to their own clearly stated goals.


  • To be determined by stakeholders, but must not include any individual or organization receiving funding or other benefit, real or perceived, from JOHS or other local government entity administering funds from the SHS measure, COVID relief funding, or other source connected to the work of AHFE.

  1. Other associated committees/advisory boards:
  1. Community Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC):

Purpose/role: CBACs are groups of community members that review and make recommendations on each Multnomah County department’s budget and operations. They are selected and convened through Multnomah County’s Budget Office.

  1. Data and Research Advisory Board: 

Purpose/roleTo oversee, hold accountable and make recommendations regarding JOHS data strategy and implementation. This committee should inform EXC, CB, EQC and JOHS decisions around data collection, management, and transparency, including use of an anti-racist approach to inform all work involving research and data, and advising on survey instruments and a public-facing dashboard. Can investigate and inform the CB, the EXC, and other members of AHFE on best practices and strategies that have been successful in other regions.

Makeup: Data specialists and enthusiasts from an array of settings, including academic institutions, community-based organizations, philanthropic organizations, businesses, and the community at large. 

  1. Metro Supportive Housing Services (SHS) Measure Committee

Purpose/role: Develop a plan for use of SHS measure funds, develop local outcomes measures working with the Data Advisory Board, and ensure accountability for use of these funds. Will also be incorporated into the bigger picture through the EXC and/or CB.

Makeup: Individuals and organizations from other stakeholder workgroups who are particularly dedicated to and/or have expertise in the continuum of resources necessary to get people from chronic unsheltered homelessness into permanent supportive housing.


See the following pages for graphics depicting:

(1) Current AHFE structure; 

(2) JOHS proposed AHFE structure; and 

(3) my proposed AHFE structure.

Current AHFE Structure (1)

JOHS proposed AHFE structure (2)

My proposed AHFE structure (3)