The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners today unanimously approved an emergency grant for Bybee Lakes Hope Center — providing a stopgap that immediately preserves nearly 200 shelter beds and lays the groundwork for a potential longer-term partnership.
The $1.5 million grant, drawn from County contingency funding, will support Bybee Lakes’ operator, Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers, with funding for operations through Dec. 31, 2023. Helping Hands has been eligible to receive County funds since applying to become a qualified provider in 2022.
Chair Jessica Vega Pederson’s team has kept in contact with leadership at Helping Hands and Bybee Lakes since the Chair took office.
When Bybee Lakes leaders warned recently that the North Portland shelter was having financial challenges and could close this fall without emergency assistance, Chair Vega Pederson’s office took the lead negotiating the grant approved this morning.
“I’m grateful we were able to move this forward urgently and keep nearly 200 shelter beds from closing at a time when this community can’t afford to lose any,” Chair Vega Pederson said. “That’s why my door has been open — because I have always believed there is a place for a diversity of shelter resources. I also know we have to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. And I’m confident Helping Hands will partner when it comes to accountability and transparency.”
“We are thankful that the Chair and commissioners were able to come together and take action with a plan for immediate funding to keep the doors of Bybee Lakes Hope Center open,” said Mike Davis, CEO of Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers. “We look forward to this being the beginning of a long-term partnership.”
Alan Evans, Helping Hands’ founder and president, added:
“It will take a community coming together with all the service providers and local governments to tackle this crisis. When I was homeless for 27 years, I did not feel seen or heard. By listening to a person's story, we can invest in the person to address their needs and traumas, so that they will be successful when they re-enter housing.”
As part of the County’s agreement, Helping Hands has agreed to maintain access to a minimum of 175 beds, maintain a high level of occupancy, and make no other population, programmatic or operational changes. Bybee Lakes also must report data on outcomes, the same as any other shelter provider receiving County funding.
To be considered for additional County funding next year, Helping Hands will need to develop and present a financial recovery plan, hold regular meetings with County finance officials, and allow access for the same fiscal monitoring process that applies to other providers contracting with the County.
The County has long funded a range of shelter and transitional housing models — including sites that do not require someone to be sober before first coming inside, as well as locations that require sobriety and offer recovery-focused services.
Bybee Lakes, which opened in fall 2020 and provides navigation and outreach and other services alongside shelter beds, complements the County’s long-established shelter continuum.
Because the Bybee Lakes Hope Center site has room to serve additional people beyond the 175 shelter beds open now, ongoing discussions between Helping Hands and the County will explore how best to maximize that potential.