With a unanimous vote Thursday, Jan. 19, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved funding for a new full-time position that will help survivors of domestic and sexual violence access long-term affordable housing.
The position will be funded by Supportive Housing Services dollars through a partnership between the Joint Office of Homeless Services and the Department of County Human Services. The new position will work from the Gateway Center, the County’s drop-in facility that provides a wide range of critical services to survivors and their children.
“Historically, the Gateway Center has done a really great job helping survivors access shelter and motels, preventing evictions, and referring into our Coordinated Access system for shorter-term rental support,” said Alix Sanchez, senior manager of the County’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Coordination Office. “They have not had the capacity to walk alongside survivors into some of those longer-term housing support settings.”
“We’re using this to fund connections to long-term permanent housing, and we’re enhancing the connections to shelter and short-term housing that we currently have,” Chair Jessica Vega Pederson said. “So this is a really important part of our system of support for people experiencing domestic violence.”
Commissioner Susheela Jayapal noted the clear intersection between domestic violence and homelessness, and cited the County’s 2022 Point in Time Count, in which 33 percent of respondents said they’d experienced domestic violence. Among those respondents who’d experienced domestic violence, 24.8 percent said it was a reason they were homeless.
“We know that domestic violence is one of the leading contributors to houselessness,” Jayapal said.
Right now, without a dedicated housing coordinator, Sanchez said that connecting survivors to longer-term housing services often falls to community providers, many of whom already have full caseloads.
“This position serves to fix that issue,” Sanchez said.
The new position will also help the County gather important data that could be used to improve services for survivors.
“With this position, we’re looking forward to having some additional data on unmet housing needs for domestic and sexual violence survivors,” said Kaytee Evans, the program manager overseeing the Joint Office of Homeless Services’ systems of care for youth, families, and domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.
“It’s really an enormous issue,” Jayapal said, “and it makes so much sense to have this additional resource to walk people through the entire system.”