Multnomah County, Ore. (June 13, 2023) — Housing Multnomah Now, an outreach-focused street-to-housing pilot program announced by Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, has reached a series of key milestones this month — with outreach workers now on the ground in the program’s first designated location, in Old Town Chinatown.
Starting June 7, outreach workers from Transition Projects have been working with people camping in a zone beneath the Steel Bridge along N.W. Naito Boulevard.
Multnomah County’s Multi-Agency Collaborative (MAC), a new cross-jurisdictional work group that includes the Joint Office of Homeless Services, the City of Portland, the City of Gresham, Health Share of Oregon, service providers and others, selected the Steel Bridge zone as the initiative’s first area of focus.
Transition Projects has so far screened 75 people over four days in the field using a new data collection and geolocation tool developed by the Joint Office’s Data Team for Housing Multnomah Now. The screening identifies individuals camping beneath the bridge and assesses their housing barriers and health needs.
Outreach workers will work within Transition Projects and with other providers to remove those barriers, address those health needs, identify housing opportunities, and enroll people in housing programs and offer shelter and other services, as needed.
Emergency management officials from the County and the City of Portland are also helping lead regular operational meetings to support Housing Multnomah Now’s work.
“This initiative provides the transparency, accountability and urgency that have been my focus and continues driving our efforts to move people off the streets and into housing by addressing their individual needs and barriers,” said Chair Vega Pederson. “Our commitment to partnership — through our MAC and with the City, State, Metro and key housing partners — is paying off in the daily work of changing people’s circumstances and their trajectories.”
Chair Vega Pederson and Joint Office of Homeless Services Director Dan Field also announced major new proposed investments to address challenges within the current homeless services system.
These investments, and wage increases for providers included in the County’s recently approved FY 2024 budget and FY 2023 budget, are expected to help Housing Multnomah Now, but also accelerate the rest of the work providers and the Joint Office are undertaking to address homelessness in Multnomah County.
“Inadequate wages for nonprofit employees are a fundamental roadblock to effective service delivery,” Commissioner Susheela Jayapal said. “I fought hard for the adjustment included in last year's budget, and am very supportive of this additional investment in wages and contractor capacity.”
“Housing is what ultimately solves homelessness,” Commissioner Lori Stegmann said. “That’s why this program is incredibly important and urgent to meet people where they are. These kinds of solutions are what our community has asked for and expects of our regional partnerships.”
Drawing from available Supportive Housing Services Measure funding, the Joint Office would work with providers to make short- and longer-term capacity-building and organizational health investments in agencies’ infrastructure, capacity and wages. Providers have continued to alert the Joint Office that capacity issues, including hiring and staff retention challenges, have increasingly been barriers to their work.
Chair Vega Pederson sees this as an important opportunity to engage with the philanthropic community, and to make these funds available as quickly as possible and for the most people possible. Together, those investments could be nearly $12 million. These proposed investments would join a selection of proposals under development, in partnership with Metro, to address underspending of Supportive Housing Services dollars and invest available resources strategically in areas of highest need.