Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson today announced she’ll use her executive authority to urgently expand homelessness and behavioral health services approved by the Board of Commissioners less than two weeks ago — including new shelter beds, daytime services, recovery housing and stabilization services.
The Chair’s announcement — which will include approving emergency contract awards to speed up the distribution of money and resources — follows the Board’s 4-1 vote Sept. 28 to allocate $50 million in unanticipated Supportive Housing Services revenue released by Metro this summer and $12 million from federal COVID-19 funds.
To deliver the results promised in those investments, the next steps leverage not only the Joint Office of Homeless Services but also include expertise and operational support from across the County, including the Health Department’s Behavioral Health Division, the Department of County Human Services and Multnomah County Emergency Management.
“I’m using executive authority to drive action and change on the ground so we’re making sure our investments reach the people who need them the most right now,” said Chair Vega Pederson. “I’ve directed each division to bring urgency to the contracting and distribution process, and proactively and productively clear hurdles to help providers reach the outcomes we know are possible.”
While some work remains ongoing, the plan specifies some already-identified providers and updates on the outcomes the investments are expected to deliver by the end of the County’s current budget year, June 30, 2024.
Providers who receive these funds will either have their current contracts updated, or have new contracts written. They will also need to track outcomes through the region’s Homeless Management Information System database, which will further improve the Joint Office’s quality-by-name list of people experiencing chronic homelessness in Multnomah County.
Overall the plan includes 573 shelter beds or sleeping units, adding capacity not only for adults experiencing homelessness but also youths and people in families.
It provides funding for a 24-hour stabilization center — the top recommendation from healthcare experts serving on the Behavioral Health Emergency Coordination Network’s executive committee. And it includes an urgent down payment on recovery-focused supportive and transitional housing initially serving 120 households, with more in the works.
Specific investments in the plan, prorated for the cost of services through the duration of the fiscal year, include:
- Expanded options for village-style shelters:
- $16 million will head to the City of Portland to fund operations at the next two Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites, joining capital expenses previously approved by the County. (All three sites will now include substantial County or State support.)
- $1.34 million to purchase 50 new sleeping units will allow existing village shelter operators — including villages funded by the Joint Office as well as Portland’s Safe Rest Villages — to grow and add new pods as needed.
- Barbie’s Village will receive $300,000 for startup costs for their planned village in Northeast Portland
- Cascadia Clusters will receive $189,000 to provide eight shelter units for people in recovery from substance use.
- Expanded family shelter options:
- More capacity for behavioral health crisis, stabilization and housing services:
- Bridges to Change will receive $1.2 million to launch two adjacent programs in Gresham: one providing short-term stabilization housing (14 days) for 10 to 12 people, and another providing longer-term transitional housing (four to six months) for 10 to 12 people.
- Multnomah County’s Promoting Access to Hope (PATH) program will receive $1.14 million to help individuals after they exit substance use disorder treatment with housing case management and flexible rent assistance for transitional housing (up to 24 months)
- $750,000 will allow currently contracted Behavioral Health Division providers to support an additional 25 households with recovery-focused permanent supportive housing with regional long-term rent assistance vouchers.
- (Other projects in the planned $16 million set of behavioral health investments are detailed below.)
- Enhanced and expanded daytime services for people without shelter, tied to City’s plan to begin enforcing time, place and manner rules around camping:
- The Equi Institute, which provided support for the Queer Affinity Village created in the early part of Portland and Multnomah County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will receive $830,000 to launch a LGBTQIA2S+ day center.
- $500,000 will create a day center in North Portland.
- Rose Haven and Blanchet House will receive funding to expand their existing daytime capacity as they navigate rising demand and higher needs among those they serve.
- Emergency housing and legal assistance to prevent evictions and keep people from ever becoming homeless in the first place:
- $7 million will allow the County’s Bienestar de la Familia program and dozens of other providers already working with Multnomah County and the City of Portland to provide emergency rent assistance.
- Black and Beyond the Binary Collective and Quest Center for Integrative Health will also each receive $500,000 to provide rent assistance and help services better reach queer and people of color households facing eviction.
- Combined, the $8 million is meant to keep 1,600 households from ever falling into homelessness, with a commitment to report how households are faring six months after receiving their emergency assistance.
- $2.14 million will help continue and expand the reach of emergency legal services that intervene, sometimes at the Courthouse itself, after someone’s received an eviction notice.
- Housing assistance to free up shelter beds by rehousing people into homes:
- $7.3 million will help current shelter programs add housing case management staff and other resources to improve the number of people who have positive exits from shelter to housing. The goal is to raise the percentage of exits by five points.
- $2 million will provide additional rent assistance and flexible client assistance for providers who serve people in shelters. Of that, $500,000 will go to Cascade AIDS Project in an expansion of their work with the Joint Office.
Other significant items in the plan will require some additional public-procurement steps, including for a 20+ bed, 24/7, 30- to 90-day stabilization unit, specifically for people leaving withdrawal management or sobering services, as well as focused work, led by Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards, to begin development of a drop-off crisis services and sobering center.
Procurement steps are also in place for an additional $5 million in the plan that would fund sober-living recovery housing. Recovery housing is a cost-effective and evidenced-based program that provides individuals in remission from substance use disorder a community living environment that is often coupled with ongoing treatment and recovery services
For both investments, procurement work involves asking a pool of existing and recently qualified providers to submit proposals to the Health Department, which would then choose a proposal and contract with the provider.
Beyond that, some items in the plan — such as $1.2 million for severe weather shelter and supplies, and $335,000 for an expansion in Joint Office data collection through street outreach — will build on existing work already under way in Multnomah County and the Joint Office.