Data-based report shows immediate impact of Supportive Housing Services in Multnomah County: Hundreds housed, shelters expanded

November 3, 2022

First-year outcomes in Multnomah County from the Supportive Housing Services Measure.
PORTLAND — Rehousing work funded by Metro’s Supportive Housing Services Measure last fiscal year helped Multnomah County and the Joint Office of Homeless Services quickly end homelessness for 1,129 people while also providing shelter for hundreds more, according to a data-driven outcomes report (PDF) submitted this week.

The 1,129 people who moved from camps, sidewalks and shelters into homes of their own account for almost a quarter of the 4,560 people the Joint Office helped move out of homelessness overall in Fiscal Year 2022. 

The Joint Office and its contracted providers achieved those results without having to rely solely on new construction or well-known longer wait lists for federal public housing, contrary to recent narratives that haven’t fully captured the nuance of housing placement work.

Some people moved into newly opened affordable apartments funded through the Portland and Metro housing bonds. But hundreds of others moved into market-rate apartments already available, using rent subsidies and other incentives to make their housing costs affordable. 

That includes the successful Move-In Multnomah pilot project, which relied on landlord incentives and new ways of packaging housing services, to end homelessness for more than 200 households overall, including 125 people in FY2022.

“There’s a persistent myth that housing someone off the street takes too long, so we should only build shelters and wait for the construction market to bail us out. It’s short-sighted, and it’s not true. Reality — the thousands of people housed last year, some within weeks — is right in front of our eyes,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.

“Thanks to Supportive Housing Services funds, we can, and should, do both. And we already are,” she added. “We can do more to house people, right now, even as we also prioritize more and better shelters for those we can’t yet reach.” 

Neighbors supported in rehousing receive a mix of supports tailored to their needs, including case management, behavioral health services and retention services. Among those formerly unhoused neighbors, 260 people enrolled in a new locally funded Regional Long-Term Rent Assistance voucher program, one of the investments made possible by the Supportive Housing Services Measure.

These housing services are reaching some of the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness in our community, just as voters intended when they approved a measure whose language directly spelled out supportive housing and its related services as a priority.

Of the 1,129 people housed with Supportive Housing Services funds, 85% were experiencing chronic homelessness, the Joint Office report says. And of 260 people who received regional long-term rent assistance, 77% reported having a disabling condition. Moreover, 94% of those rent assistance recipients were still housed after six months, according to the report.

In addition, Supportive Housing Services funds last year directly supported 387 people in shelter. The funds helped the Joint Office support an ongoing shelter expansion that began before the pandemic and persisted throughout despite the serious challenges  brought by a global public health emergency.

Across all funding sources last year, the Joint Office added and launched seven sites with hundreds of beds or rooms — including villages, motels and congregate spaces. That expansion is in addition to the Safe Rest Village in Multnomah Village that opened in FY2022 and the SRV in east Portland that will soon begin accepting participants. 

Overall in FY2023, half of the Joint Office’s budget is dedicated to shelter expansion and operations, with a maximum funded capacity, once additional sites are procured and renovated, of more than 2,400 beds and/or rooms. 

Moving people into shelter can help decrease the number of people counted without shelter on a given night during the region’s Point in Time Count (3,057 in 2022). But because people in shelter will still count as experiencing homelessness, shelter expansion alone won’t decrease our region’s overall homelessness number (5,228 in 2022).

Other highlights in the report include:

  • Eviction prevention: Supportive Housing Services funds leveraged local, federal and state COVID-19 eviction prevention programs to help prevent homelessness for 9,156 households.  
  • Outreach and services navigation: Supportive Housing Services expanded street-level services, providing 2,640 people experiencing unsheltered homelessness with outreach worker support to access medical, housing, and shelter resources.
  • Behavioral health alignment: Using SHS, the Joint Office and the Health Department launched a behavioral health motel shelter program, and began pairing rent assistance with programs already providing intensive behavioral health case management to people experiencing homelessness.
  • Employment and hygiene services: More than 359 people received employment training through Supportive Housing Services, helping them earn income. In hygiene services, a mobile shower and hygiene program provided over 2,817 showers and completed additional outreach to an estimated 1,000 people.

Fiscal Year 2021-22, was the first year Multnomah County was allowed to spend funds from the Supportive Housing Services Measure. The measure, which sends funds directly to County governments, substantially increased the Joint Office’s budget and ability to serve people experiencing chronic homelessness. 

The Joint Office spent months in public meetings developing a “Local Implementation Plan” that details its priorities for the use of Supportive Housing Services funds.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners — Chair Kafoury and Commissioners Sharon Meieran, Susheela Jayapal, Jessica Vega Pederson and Lori Stegmann — unanimously approved the plan as well as the Joint Office’s budgets for FY2022 and FY2023.