Supportive Housing Services (SHS) funds are playing a critical role in building the infrastructure our community needs to both reduce homelessness and increase housing, shelter and wrap-around services for our most vulnerable neighbors.
In the first year of SHS implementation:
- 357 people were served in shelter;
- 1,129 people moved into housing;
- 9,156 people avoided becoming homeless with the help of eviction prevention services;
- 10 additional emergency shelters were funded;
- and JOHS expanded or launched 31 programs.
Multnomah County, along with other communities across the state of Oregon and around the country, is experiencing a homelessness crisis that predates the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to disproportionately impact certain populations in our community, including those who are impacted by historic and ongoing racial oppression, as well as veterans and people who are disabled. In the Spring of 2020, voters in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties responded to the crisis with the first-ever regional tax to support homeless services.
Since July 2021, the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS), along with a long list of partners, has led implementation of the Metro Supportive Housing Services (SHS) Measure in a way that centers racial equity and offers the wide range of supports and services that people of different identities and backgrounds need to remain in or move into safe, stable housing.
Over the past year, the JOHS has provided permanent housing and supportive services for thousands of people in Multnomah County and deployed support to prevent thousands more from experiencing homelessness in the first place. The number of people receiving housing and support has grown at a rapid pace, all while JOHS simultaneously builds the infrastructure required to reduce chronic and episodic homelessness in the region over time.
This accelerated progress brought the total housing placements for FY 2021-22 to 1,129 – just shy of the ambitious goal of 1,300 placements set at the beginning of the fiscal year. In the face of an ongoing pandemic and the corresponding economic crisis, JOHS is ending people’s homelessness by moving them into safe, supportive housing.
Expansion of Behavioral Health Services:
In creating the Local Implementation Plan (LIP) for deployment of Supportive Housing Services funding in Multnomah County, JOHS committed to expanding behavioral health services in alignment with outreach, shelter and housing while coordinating access to services across the health and criminal justice systems.
- JOHS partnered with Multnomah County’s Behavioral Health Division, Central City Concern and Related NW to create 40 supportive housing apartments at Cedar Commons to serve people with significant behavioral health needs.
- JOHS worked with Multnomah County’s Department of Community Justice and Central City Concern to create 15 supportive housing apartments at the Henry Building for people exiting the criminal justice system.
- The number of people receiving eviction prevention assistance in Multnomah County grew by 8,820 to 35,550 in FY 2021-2022. During that same period, we saw that nearly all people who receive eviction prevention assistance remain housed, even a year after subsidies end.
- While thousands of people in our region are just one missed rent check away from being evicted, homelessness is not inevitable for them. A rent subsidy at just the right time can help people keep their jobs, help children stay in school and help strengthen our community for the benefit of all of us.
Establishing the Regional Long-Term Rent Assistance (RLRA) Program:
One of the landmark innovations of the Metro SHS program in its first year is the creation of the Regional Long-Term Rent Assistance (RLRA) program. The JOHS worked closely with Home Forward, Metro Regional Government and with Clackamas and Washington Counties to design and implement a regional framework for the administration of rent assistance to ensure consistency for landlords, service providers and participants, while also allowing counties to independently implement the program based on local priorities.
Home Forward developed the internal staffing and structure to support the program, entered into project-based RLRA agreements with 7 affordable housing projects that include supportive housing apartments (2 will come online in FY 23), and trained tenant-based supportive housing providers to be part of the program. Multnomah County worked with the Housing Development Center, the Network for Oregon Affordable Housing (NOAH), Home Forward and other partners to develop a RLRA rent guarantee for a site-based supportive project that will come online in FY 23. This initial work has laid a solid foundation for future affordable housing projects in Multnomah County and the Metro region that commit to creating supportive housing units as part of their original design.