“This is a new venture for us”: Domestic violence center adds housing assessor position, thanks to Supportive Housing Services funding
For survivors of domestic violence, housing is key to long-term safety and success. But before voters approved the Supportive Housing Services Measure, the Gateway Center — the Multnomah County call-in facility that provides a wide range of critical services to domestic violence survivors — was not equipped to help clients access long-term affordable housing options.That changed this past fiscal year, when Supportive Housing Services funding allowed for the creation of a full-time housing assessor position out of the Gateway Center.
“This is really a new venture for us,” said Martha Strawn Morris, director of the Gateway Center.
Domestic violence survivors are able to get long-term housing through the Domestic Violence Coordinated Access system. But housing referrals through that system can be challenging to obtain, requiring ongoing work and continued contact with the survivor.
“You have to walk alongside a survivor for anywhere from two to eight or 10 weeks. You have to be able to get in touch with them. You have to ask pretty detailed questions,” Strawn Morris said. “It's a pretty in-depth amount of knowledge you need to have about the person to be able to make a viable referral into that system.”
Before this year, Gateway Center staff, who must focus on triaging survivors’ immediate needs, didn’t have that capacity.
“It was a big gap in the community,” Strawn Morris said.
But this year, for the first time, the Gateway Center can provide a direct entry point to long-term housing options through its first-ever housing assessor, Kara Sydnor.
Sydnor started in March 2023 and says she supports clients at their most vulnerable moments.
Sydnor said she’s already seen early success with the new role. All of the survivors she’s helped through the referral process have been “matched” with housing. “I feel very optimistic when we're able to take a look back on the work that Gateway has been able to do in making successful matches,” she said.
But while Sydnor has been successful in connecting survivors to housing resources so far, she and Strawn Morris said that many more survivors need housing than can currently be served by the domestic and sexual violence coordinated access system. Often eight to 10 other survivors will be vying for the same subsidy, meaning that many are not matched with housing.
They said that more attention and resources need to be directed to the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness.
“If you're talking about supporting unhoused folks, you cannot have that conversation without also bringing up the intersection of domestic violence,” Sydnor said. “It's impossible to even begin taking the steps to create stability, safety and wellness for yourself when you don't have stable housing.”
A version of this story appears in Multnomah County’s Supportive Housing Services Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2022-2023. Read the report here.