March 27, 2020

Gov. Kate Brown on Friday, March 27, clarified her “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order with new guidance that offers important exemptions for social services providers and people who are experiencing homelessness. 

“I want to be clear: Oregon's stay-at-home directives do not apply to shelters and social services,” Gov. Brown said in clarifying her March 23 guidance. “They were not intended to serve as an enforcement mechanism against Oregon’s unsheltered population, and we would ask all local officials to follow that intent of the order.”

According to new guidance attached to Brown’s Executive Order 20-12:

  • Social service agencies remain open: Agencies providing for basic food, water, shelter, and hygiene needs of any person who is unable to meet those same needs without the service provider should remain open and use physical distancing guidelines provided by the Oregon Health Authority.
  • Enforcement limits: People experiencing unsheltered homelessness are not subject to enforcement simply because they are in public and do not have a permanent home.
  • Shelter clarity: Shelter providers are not expected to keep shelter residents from interacting within shelters or from leaving shelters, but should encourage residents to limit unnecessary travel, and to practice physical distancing guidelines.

“It is never acceptable to stigmatize or criminalize people experiencing homelessness,” Gov. Brown said.

Multnomah County has taken several steps to help people who are experiencing homelessness amid the COVID-19 outbreak, including setting up new shelter spaces to adhere to physical distancing recommendations and working through the Joint Office of Homeless Services to distribute supplies and information to more than 2,100 people without shelter.

County employees have helped launch the new shelters and continue to work at these additional shelter spaces. Elected officials have also taken part, assembling cots and taking shifts serving meals. And staff from nonprofits have played a lead role. 

To sustain that work, Chair Deborah Kafoury and County leaders are also asking for community help. This week the County put out a call for temporary employees to work in a range of shelter and motel settings over the coming weeks.