I have significant concerns about the proposed IGA and also the HRAP. I worry that these proposals signify massive changes in governance around homelessness but have largely flown under the radar without the exhaustive public process they deserve. I’ve provided detailed feedback to the Chair (attached to this email as a pdf) and summarized my main concerns and recommendations below (also attached as a pdf). I’d love to schedule some time to discuss these with you.


My concerns:

  1. There has been minimal opportunity for public discourse or Board vetting of the HRAP when we need scrupulous openness and transparency.
  • The HRAP is treated as if it’s a done deal, millions are being allocated in our budget, yet it hasn’t been formally discussed or approved. 
  • We should hold at least one formal Board work session on the HRAP, potentially more, and have a formal vote to adopt.
  1. The HRAP and IGA vest absolute power in the County Chair when we need leadership independent of a single elected official.
  • Placing an entire homelessness system, including selection of its director, under the authority of a single elected official is dangerous. 
  • As examples of what can go wrong, consider Housing Multnomah Now; the inability to get tens of millions of dollars SHS revenue out the door; and the appointment of an individual with no background in homelessness as homelessness system director.
  • I don’t think the public would support placing a homelessness system under the exclusive purview of the Chair right now and we are their representatives. We need to take this responsibility seriously. 
  1. The HRAP recycles decades of prior homelessness plans that have failed, except it is less collaborative, detailed, cohesive, coherent, and vetted. 
  • I’ve read the prior plans multiple times and in detail. They failed over 40 years, each worse than the last. The HRAP incorporates virtually identical approaches wit virtually identical content and approach. 
  • A Home For Everyone made identical promises around shelter and decreasing unsheltered homelessness as the HRAP but left unprecedented numbers of people living in squalor and dying on our streets. 
  • Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and the HRAP is leading us down a well-worn, costly, and dangerous path. 
  1. The HRAP makes a committee of politicians central to governance when we need an independent governance structure characterized by objectivity and expertise. 
  • Politicians run for office to do good. But they are not experts in homelessness and sometimes do not understand the basics of the system. 
  • There is immense public pressure to pursue policies, individual projects, or programs that sound good but may not do good, and certainly will not change our systems. 
  • The right thing to do to change our systems may be politically unpopular but we need to do it anyway. 
  • We need to establish an independent governance structure guided by experts, led by an accountable director selected according to objective criteria, who can lead change that’s necessary, even when it’s not popular.
  1. There’s still no comprehensive holistic plan, and the only way to get one is through effective governance. 
  • The HRAP is a hodgepodge of generic goals, disjointed topics, and jargon.
  • Nothing puts the pieces together, there is no framework for a holistic system, and no mechanism for achieving one. 
  • The only way to get to a truly comprehensive plan is through independent, effective and accountable governance vested with the authority to direct action.

My recommendations:

  1. The JOHS IGA should be allowed to lapse. 
  • If certain technical details need to be addressed before the expiration date of the current IGA, then extend it for a couple of months. 
  • There’s no downside to extending the deadline by a couple of months to make sure we get things right. But there’s a huge risk of harm if we rush through this process and get something wrong (which, as the replacement IGA is written, will happen).
  1. If the parties want to achieve something specific, a narrowly tailored IGA should be executed pursuing that clear objective. 
  • If the goal is to promise certain deliverables around shelter in exchange for a certain amount of funds, then this should be the agreement. Period.
  • Including a bunch of stuff about the HRAP muddies the waters and is unnecessary for the IGA. The IGA should be straightforward and say what it means.
  • Additional fuzzier details can be agreed upon via Resolution or other mechanism. This was done for A Home For Everyone - the JOHS was established through IGA with technical details, but the governance structures and committees and other stuff was achieved through Resolution.  
  • I personally believe the IGA should include a mechanism for dedication of a certain amount of SHS funds determined via formula to go to the County’s jurisdictions. This can be a longer discussion but needs to be addressed.
  1. The JOHS should be acknowledged as exclusively a County department.
  • This doesn’t need a County ordinance to happen. Including this in an IGA is unnecessary and inappropriate.
  1. The roles and responsibilities of City, County, State and Federal governments as they currently stand should be clearly delineated. 
  • Nothing connects the dots of our current dysfunctional homelessness system.
  • As the HRAP and IGA propose to add a whole new layer of bureaucracy, we should at least have a foundational map of what currently exists.
  1. A governance structure should be established that is composed of substantively informed leaders and led by a single, accountable subject matter expert, selected through a transparent process based on objective criteria. 
  • This governance team should be as independent of politics as possible and be responsible for creating a comprehensive holistic framework for a homelessness system of prevention, shelter and housing. 
  1. The HRAP should be deeply vetted through at least one public Board work session and it should not be adopted without a supermajority vote of both City and County. 


The path to ending homelessness may not be easy, but it’s straightforward:

  1. Clearly delineate City, County, Metro and State roles and responsibilities; 
  2. Identify the scope and scale of homelessness through proactive and direct measurement of what real people need (a true By Name List, translated into clear system needs);
  3. Catalog what infrastructure, services, and supports currently exist and analyze their cost-effectiveness and outcomes;
  4. Identify how much total funding is available for homelessness prevention, shelter and housing; 
  5. Put the pieces together - apply the funding we have to purchase the services we need, prioritizing life, health and safety for the immediate term while setting a foundation and planning for the long term. 

If we establish an informed, independent governance model based on expertise rather than politics, we can create a comprehensive holistic homelessness system that will finally begin to change our trajectory. The HRAP and IGA do the opposite. They obscure what actually needs to happen and add layers of bureaucracy to an already Byzantine system. They speak in jargon and put politicians at the center of a process led by the Chair. 


Having gone through the documents with a fine tooth comb, I’ve tried to summarize my feedback in a way that is constructive and honest. I am willing to change my perspective if confronted with data and arguments based on evidence. Although I do not support the IGA or the HRAP as written, with a public vetting and honest discussion I hope we might get to proposals that we can all agree on. 


Thanks so much for your consideration.


With respect,