Putting this year’s $52 million allocation to immediate use, the Joint Office has moved hundreds of people into permanent homes, added new shelter options, and expanded street outreach, community cleanup and behavioral health services. In all, nearly two-dozen programs have launched or expanded.
Metro has required each county receiving funds to present detailed quarterly reports of their progress. Here’s a guide to Multnomah County’s work from July 1 to December 31, 2021.
Ending Homelessness With Affordable Permanent Supportive Housing
Between July 1 and December 31, 2021, the Joint Office helped 1,780 people leave the streets or shelters for homes of their own (319 of these were funded by Supportive Housing Services dollars). Most of this progress came in recent weeks, as the Joint Office moves from the ramping-up stage to actually achieving significant results. The gains that have been made have come from a combination of rental assistance programs and new affordable housing developments. Both approaches are essential. Housing is just as immediate and urgent as other strategies, like shelters, to help our neighbors on the streets move off the streets and into safe, permanent supportive housing.
Carol’s story: A new home after four years in her vehicle
Northwest Pilot Project used SHS funds to help a woman named Carol find an apartment after four years of living in her car, which was so stuffed with her belongings she couldn’t stretch out to sleep.
Carol had been referred by a hospital social worker and was “out of ideas.” Between her limited Social Security checks, ongoing debts and a past eviction, she couldn’t find a landlord who would rent to her. Northwest Pilot Project used SHS funds to change that, providing Carol with ongoing support services along with a stable source of rent assistance.
Preventing homelessness: Emergency rent assistance prevents evictions
During the first half of the first year of SHS funding, the JOHS invested in staff capacity, primarily in culturally specific organizations, to ensure that millions of dollars in federal rental assistance reached households at risk of becoming homeless. Funding was utilized to supplement existing programs with additional staffing capacity quickly to ensure timely disbursement of this rent assistance, as well as pairing financial assistance with other key services to ensure continuing success.
Safety Off the Streets: New shelters open
Two new shelter programs serving at least 85 more people each night opened their doors thanks to Supportive Housing Services funds.
- The Arbor Lodge Shelter is a first-of-its-kind hybrid shelter, offering 58 beds inside a converted retail store, with 12 sleeping pods in the parking lot.
- Beacon Village PDX in Montavilla has 10 sleeping pods that serve up to 15 people a night.
In addition, the Joint Office is supporting a motel program in partnership with Multnomah County’s Health Department, focused on people with behavioral health challenges.
Jobs for people experiencing homelessness: Community clean-up, Hygiene services
Supportive Housing Services funds are also directly addressing urgent livability issues, with a focus on empowering people experiencing homelessness. New outreach and job-training programs are providing job opportunities as well as services like showers and trash pickup. This cleanup work isn’t connected to camp removals – it helps clean the spaces where people are.
Employment services, providing living wage jobs for people transitioning from living unsheltered, were a significant part of the services funded through SHS. As of the end of Q2, a total of 34 clean-up projects have been completed, with at least 76,000 lbs of garbage collected from outdoor locations across Multnomah County and a total of 3416 showers were provided. Both the hygiene and employment programs are on track to exceed their fiscal year goals.
Equity investments: Addressing historic and ongoing inequities in housing and services
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, the Joint Office of Homeless Services is expanding culturally specific provider investments, better engaging people with lived experience who identify as BIPOC in our planning work, ensuring that our data includes demographic information to ensure that we are measurably meeting our goals, and investing in front-line workers who disproportionately are BIPOC and who are critical to the effective delivery of culturally specific and responsive services.
Through the first six months of SHS investments, 46% of households served in shelter identified as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), and 50% of households placed into housing identified as BIPOC (This only includes data from the 65% of providers able to input data into the system).
Community oversight: Centering equity and accountability
In January, Metro joined Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah Counties in signing a 10-year agreement that’s meant to put public engagement and accountability at the center of the Supportive Housing Services work. A total of four review panels will monitor each counties’ performance, finances and coordination.
Two of those panels will be guided directly by the community: Metro’s Regional Oversight Committee is already reviewing quarterly reports and had previously approved each county’s local strategy. And a new Tri-county Planning Committee will develop recommendations around regional alignment.
The Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) is forming a committee specifically dedicated to advising on Multnomah County's implementation of SHS, with an emphasis on elevating the role of people with lived experience and the BIPOC community. The JOHS will also be reconstituting its Continuum of Care Board and ensuring that there is shared membership and process in place to align the work of the two bodies. Recognizing a need to focus on geographic equity, an East County Committee, to specifically focus on programming in this underserved area, will be launched as well.