Unprecedented Joint Office budget adds new shelter beds, behavioral health services, hygiene access — and an immediate infusion of supportive housing

June 3, 2021

The 2022 budget for the Joint Office of Homeless Services invests more than $150 million in ending homelessness, protecting Multnomah County’s ongoing efforts with the City of Portland while adding new housing, shelter, behavioral health, hygiene and outreach services thanks to voter-directed Supportive Housing Services funds and American Rescue Plan dollars.

Those ongoing efforts through the Joint Office include funding more than 1,400 year-round shelter beds, and helping more than 5,000 people a year leave homelessness for permanent housing.

That work also includes a behavioral health team that works throughout the shelter system, housing “in-reach” workers who bring housing opportunities to people living in camps, shelters and villages, and a Navigation Team that focuses on helping people in the highest-impact campsites get shelter and health services.

Before the Joint Office was created, Portland and Multnomah County funded less than half the number of shelter beds and helped thousands fewer people out of homelessness every year. 

Those gains served as the foundation for Metro’s Supportive Housing Services Measure, approved last year. The measure called for new revenue specifically to pay for work like rent assistance and behavioral health supports that will help people with the most barriers to housing leave the streets or shelter beds for good. 

The Board of Commissioners unanimously voted yes on a $52 million spending plan for the Supportive Housing Services funds that was first laid out April 22 in the Chair Deborah Kafoury’s Executive Budget, and discussed in several public hearings, meetings and worksessions.

Those funds, this coming year, will now add:

  • Rent assistance and other supports so 1,300 more households can leave homelessness.

  • Another 400-plus year-round shelter beds (which are in addition to any new villages/shelters funded by the City of Portland)

  • Three new Navigation Teams

  • New housing resources for people working with the County’s Behavioral Health Division

  • Expanded data capacity for tracking and sharing outcomes in the Joint Office’s work to address homelessness 

A view of some of the 19 sleeping pods at the St. Johns Village on May 21, 2021.

The Board also dedicated new one-time-only funds from the American Rescue Plan COVID-19 to expand shelter and services. Those funds will grow a massive COVID-19 response led by the Joint Office since March 2020 that allowed Multnomah County to preserve its shelter capacity, distribute survival supplies, and provide vaccines, all while avoiding significant outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness. 

As part of approving the budget today, the Board also said yes to several amendments and budget notes from Commissioners that will further strengthen the County’s work around ending homelessness. 

County funding so C3PO outdoor shelters can stay open

With the County’s share of its American Rescue Plan funding, the Chair added $1.5 million in one-time funds so existing operations at the C3PO outdoor shelter villages can continue as part of our broader Joint Office COVID recovery strategy.

Those funds will join $3 million allocated from the City of Portland to support the C3PO sites. The three village sites, created to offer safer, socially distanced shelter and hygiene options, offer a total of 100 personal shelters with electricity and heat, as well as meals, showers, bathrooms, and a sense of community. 

Adding funds for a shower truck, and culturally specific outreach services

The Budget approved today adds $675,000 in American Rescue Plan funds for culturally specific outreach and hygiene services, under an amendment brought by Commissioner Susheela Jayapal.

Those additions include $250,000 to fund maintenance, staffing and supplies in support of using a shower truck that can visit multiple sites in the community.  

Commissioner Jayapal’s amendment also adds $425,000 for five culturally specific peer support outreach workers who will reach people at high-impact encampments and not just provide survival services but also connect people to shelter capacity coming online this year. 

Supports for alternative shelter expansion

An additional $300,000 in American Rescue Plan funds, from an amendment sought by Commissioner Sharon Meieran, will create two full-time positions to support the Joint Office’s ongoing expansion in alternative shelter work.

Budget notes add transparency and guide future decisions

Commissioners also voted today to include several “budget notes” to the spending plan they unanimously voted to approve today. Budget notes are addendums that don’t allocate funding, but instead can offer policy directions, flag policy issues to watch, or create opportunities for mid-stream check-ins on specific programs.

Related to homelessness and the Joint Office:

  • Commissioner Meieran requested a briefing about how the Joint Office will be working in partnership with the City of Portland on work to set up and then operate a plan for new Safe Rest Villages. Those Safe Rest Villages would be in addition to the 400-plus new shelter beds (including 200 alternative shelter beds) funded in the County’s budget.

  • Commissioners Meieran and Jessica Vega Pederson requested a briefing on any new state or federal funding that might be received by the County and could be invested in behavioral health, housing and homelessness services. That briefing will include identifying funding that could support wraparound services at the Safe Rest Villages.

  • Commissioners Meieran and Jayapal requested a briefing from the Joint Office on the costs, missions and outcomes of all outreach teams serving people experiencing homelessness, including behavioral health, case management, and shelter and housing navigation teams.