In all, those programs at full capacity will help find new homes for up to 1,300 households currently experiencing homelessness, thanks to rapid investments in rent assistance and wraparound support services. Those investments will also help nearly 1,000 other households avoid homelessness in the first place by staying in the homes they already have.
Funding for these investments comes from the 10-year, $2.5 billion Metro Supportive Housing Services Measure, approved by voters across Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties in May 2020. Multnomah County is assigning its share of the funds to the City of Portland/Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services.
Starting with $52 million this year and increasing to over $100 million next year, annual resources from the Supportive Housing Services Measure will sustain critical interventions that reduce chronic homelessness, including rent assistance, behavioral health and addiction services, increased shelter capacity and street outreach, and other proven solutions.
Across all programs, Chair Kafoury’s budget recommendation also invests in work that is designed to reduce persistent racial and ethnic disparities in homelessness.
“Racial equity isn’t a goal tacked on to this budget, it is embedded in every program and partnership the Joint Office is involved with,” said Chair Kafoury. “When we design programs to reduce racial disparities, we improve outcomes for everyone.”
The recommended budget also includes over $10 million for increasing year-round shelter capacity in Multnomah County by as many as 400 beds, including motels and community-shaped alternative shelter options to serve people who are living outside today.
Programs funded in Chair Kafoury’s proposed budget include:
Housing, Rent Assistance and Supportive Services: Funding for new supportive housing for 800 households, including seniors and people with disabling conditions, matching rent assistance with behavioral health and other supports that will help them stay healthy and housed.
Street Outreach and System Navigation: The creation of three new specialized Navigation Teams for street outreach, an expanded Addictions Benefits Coordination Team, and expanded support for volunteer-supported primary care/medical street outreach programs. In all, that outreach work could connect nearly 2,000 more people to housing, shelter or health services.
Increased Shelter Capacity: New year-round shelter spaces across a range of models, from the construction of a congregate shelter for roughly 80 people to motel shelters to a significant expansion of alternative shelter options.
Support for Culturally Specific Providers and System Capacity: Investments that would address racial disparities in homelessness by growing the community’s network of culturally specific providers and in providing supportive housing.
COVID-19 Recovery: Beyond housing and shelter investments meant to help people currently experiencing homelessness face fallout from COVID-19, the plan would provide rent assistance to hundreds more at-risk households and hire 100 people for low-barrier employment.
“This is our region’s answer to homelessness. In this next year alone, our goal is to create up to 1,300 new homes for people currently experiencing homelessness, with a focus on the growing number of Black, Indigenous and People of Color experiencing chronic homelessness,” Chair Kafoury said. “Not five years from now, not three — this coming year. Supporting a transition into stable housing is the only way to end someone’s homelessness, and it’s what voters asked us to do when they approved the Supportive Housing Services Measure last year.”
“Starting this summer, this funding will begin helping thousands of people into stable housing,” said Marc Jolin, Director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services. “At the same time, we are battling local, national and global forces that have rapidly increased economic inequality. We need our partners in federal and state government to step up with support for housing and more equitable economic policies if we are going to sustain progress over the long term.”
Since voters approved the Supportive Housing Services Measure in 2020, the Joint Office of Homeless Services has convened hundreds of community stakeholders to inform the specific actions that Multnomah County and its partners are taking to respond to the homelessness crisis.
To ensure programs funded by the Supportive Housing Services Measure effectively meet community needs, they were designed with input from communities of color and people who have lost access to safe, affordable housing, and are now living outside. The Joint Office will continue to engage the community to guide the work of expanding the initial set of investments in Multnomah County’s response to homelessness.
“Racial disparities for people of color living without shelter have continued to grow. We know that the first step to serving more people of color in housing is providing programs created for — and implemented by — people of color. We know that, because that’s what people of color have been telling us for years,” said Dr. Marisa Zapata, Associate Professor of Land-Use Planning at Portland State University and Director of PSU's Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative.
As implementation begins, the Joint Office will establish metrics to evaluate year-over-year progress and report back to the community on a regular basis to maximize impact and support stable housing for as many people as possible.
The Metro Supportive Housing Services Measure is funded through a 1 percent tax on all taxable income of more than $125,000 for individuals and $200,000 for joint filers and a 1 percent tax on profits from businesses with gross receipts of more than $5 million. Funding is collected and allocated every year until 2030, when it can be renewed.
The full Board of County Commissioners will consider the proposed budget during a work session and two public hearings before voting on budget adoption on June 3, 2021.