Multnomah County and the Family Shelter-to-Housing Partnership have collaborated to offer 68 additional shelter beds to homeless families with children this winter. The beds became available on Nov. 1 to support the county’s growing homeless population as temperatures drop.
The number of families with children experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County has increased by 35 percent over the last two years, according to data from Portland’s Street Count and Multnomah County’s One Night Shelter Count.
The 2011 Street Count and One Night Shelter Count identified 2,727 people who were “literally homeless” -- sleeping in an emergency shelters, outdoors, in their vehicles or staying in motels with vouchers. During that count earlier this year, an additional 1,928 people were sleeping in transitional housing, bringing the total homeless count in Multnomah County to 4,655.
At a press conference announcing the availability of additional winter beds, guests heard from Georgina Valeska Zapata, a woman leaving a shelter after living there for seven weeks with her husband and two young children.
After moving to Portland, Georgina and her family found themselves homeless for the first time in their lives. They were living in the family’s sedan when they heard about Portland Homeless Family Solutions, one of the county’s partner organizations that serves families experiencing homelessness.
Portland Homeless Family Solutions set them up at Goose Hollow Family shelter, helped Georgina and her husband find work, rent their own apartment and enroll their children in school and after-school programs.
“I am very grateful to the shelter for everything they’ve done for my family.” said Georgina. “From this experience I have learned that a lot of families are homeless and it’s out of their hands.”
The Family Winter Shelter at Eastminister Presbyterian Church (12505 NE Halsey) will house 60 of the new beds for families and the Common Cup Shelter at Sunnyside United Methodist Church (3520 SE Yamhill) will accommodate the remaining eight.
One hundred percent of shelter beds for families in Multnomah County are provided by churches. This year, the county directed an additional $1.6 million dollars to provide families experiencing homelessness with temporary shelter, rental assistance, job placement and skills training.
The services will be offered through the Family Shelter-to-Housing Partnership, a coalition of faith-based and non-profit groups that provides comprehensive support to homeless families with children in Portland.
“We are finding solutions that give families in crisis long-term stability, because helping families in crisis is our role,” said Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury.
Families who need emergency shelter or who are in danger of losing their housing should call 211.