February 9, 2022

Image shows Cedar Commons, an affordable housing project constructed partly with SHS dollarsIn the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2022 (July - October), Supportive Housing Services (SHS) funds have already created new housing opportunities for hundreds of chronically homeless households on the streets and in shelter, and have helped prevent thousands of people from losing their housing by supporting the deployment of federal rent assistance resources.

These funds are being used to staff the deployment of hundreds of new federal rental assistance vouchers for families, youth and domestic violence survivors; the acquisition and operating budget of more than 130 rooms of motel shelter; and the hiring of dozens of new outreach workers providing an array of navigation and support services to people who are unsheltered.

 

Goal of SHS Funding:

The focus of this funding is to address the issue of chronic homelessness in our community, while also prioritizing the expansion of culturally specific services and the integration of healthcare with homeless services.

 

Equity Lens:

Recognizing that racism is a primary driver of homelessness, the work to meet our goals requires intentional planning, investment, and data analysis all focused on achieving racial equity. To do this, we are expanding culturally specific provider investments, better engaging people with lived experience who identify as BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Color) in our planning work, investing in front-line workers who disproportionately are People of Color and who are critical to the effective delivery of culturally specific and responsive services.

The SHS Measure calls on the County to end homelessness and to do so by first reaching BIPOC who are overrepresented in the populations of people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness. The SHS Measure, consistent with the values of the JOHS, requires that all planning work center the voices of people with lived experience, especially from BIPOC communities. The SHS Measure Local Implementation Plan (LIP), adopted by the County Board to guide SHS Measure fund investments, emphasizes the importance of expanding the number and capacity of culturally specific service providers, and expanding funding to those providers, as critical strategies to eliminate racial disparities in homelessness. This year’s JOHS budget includes significant investments that further these commitments.

 

To deliver on its commitments to equity and inclusion, the JOHS is:

  • Creating a forum for people with lived experience of homelessness. In the Summer of 2021, the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) worked to redesign its Community Advisory Forum, engaging with culturally specific organizations and surveying 92 people with lived experience of homelessness (stipends were provided to participants). The redesigned Community Advisory Forum will launch in early 2022. It will serve as an advisory table with 10 to 14 members who have lived experience of homelessness.
  • Addressing wage concerns that create inequities in the service continuum: Conducting a wage study of staff working for homeless service providers to ensure equity-focused capacity building. The wage study will yield valuable information to help drive system wide equity investments related to staffing. In addition, recognizing that the need to enable organizational stability and expansion for providers through the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce exists now, the City and County included a “living wage” adjustment in human services budgets as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, adding $2 million to the budget for wages for homeless service providers.
 

How the Joint Office of Homeless Services is using funding from Supportive Housing Services (SHS) to meet goals:

The Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) has worked to urgently deploy SHS resources and immediately expand services, as this progress report makes clear. But to support those expanded services, and to effectively continue and manage that expansion in the coming years, the JOHS also must ensure that the necessary infrastructure exists to do that work and carry out the intentional, community-based planning needed to guide ongoing investments.

To deliver on commitments outlined in the Local Implementation Plan (LIP), the JOHS is:

  • Expanding its capacity for planning, evaluation, and data, as well as working to create and support a Tri-County integrated homeless services database (known as the Homeless Management Information System or HMIS) to allow for regional outcome reporting.
  • Investing in data collection and analysis will serve to guide and evaluate the effectiveness of current and future services and investments
  • Including race and ethnicity data in all data collected for programs will ensure that underserved communities are prioritized, and ensure that racial equity is centered in all new and existing programming.
  • Supporting a new partnership with Community Solutions to implement Built for Zero as a data framework to create a more effective “by name” list. JOHS will use this framework to focus on the priority population of chronically homeless individuals, which echoes our priority population in the LIP. This system will enhance HMIS data to help place people already homeless in services by enhancing case conferencing to find the most effective interventions for people experiencing chronic homelessness by improving data quality, providing decision support, and improving service quality.

Here are some highlights (this includes some preliminary numbers from the second quarter, but only the numbers from the first quarter are finalized).

HOUSING

  • At least 1,200 people were moved into housing and off the streets and out of our shelters (more than 300 of those who moved into housing were able to be housed with SHS Metro measure funds)

  • 743 additional people were enrolled in housing programs funded by the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS), putting them on a path to permanent housing 

  • 1,300 new people got a shelter bed 

  • 7,370 people stayed in their homes thanks to rent assistance, including investments from the SHS Metro funds 

  • 131 people received legal assistance to avoid eviction

INNOVATION AND TRANSPARENCY

  • We launched the Regional Long Term Rental Assistance Program - the first truly regional program in Oregon

    • Federal Section 8 vouchers often leave vulnerable and deserving people out

    • Local vouchers can help those people because they offer less red tape

    • Local vouchers also allow us to pay the rent in market-rate apartments that are off-limits to Section 8 vouchers.

  • We joined the Built for Zero initiative to collect more accurate data and direct better services to people experiencing chronic homelessness. 

TRASH CLEANUP, LIVABILITY AND STREET OUTREACH

  • $1.5 million from Metro funds help launch new initiatives for trash collection, hygiene stations and employment services

    • 34 clean-up projects completed, with at least 76,000 lbs of garbage collected

    • 3,416 showers provided

    • 330 outreach engagements. 

  • The Joint Office has used SHS Metro funds to hire 10 of 15 new positions in our Navigation Teams. Those are outreach teams that work intensively with the highest-impact encampments, getting people there access to shelter, but also helping with basics like ID cards, health insurance, eyeglasses and other benefits.

SHELTER EXPANSION

  • New investments of $44 million were dedicated for congregate and alternative shelters:

    • 338 beds/pods/rooms (pods and rooms can serve more than one person) are either open for the first time or have been converted from temporary capacity to ongoing capacity.

    • That includes:

      • 60 new congregate shelter beds

      • 137 sleeping pods

      • 141 motel rooms

    • Another 400 beds could come online this year, including the Safe Rest Villages.

    • Before COVID, our system had 1,400 year-round shelter beds, so these new projects will mark a major expansion.


Here are slides from the two presentations made to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners:


Download the full Q1 Report in PDF Form