Metro began distributing supportive housing services funds to Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties in the summer of 2021. These funds are used to expand existing programs and support new services, with the goal of ending chronic homelessness in greater Portland over the course of the ten-year program.
Annual reports for the fund’s first year were submitted to Metro staff by the counties in early November. Collectively, they show promising returns from an initial focus on expanding program capacity in the early months. For example, Washington County formed new partnerships with 19 community-based organizations over the past year to connect people with housing and services, and Clackamas County awarded $7.5 million in new service provider contracts that will launch in the next year of the fund.
As a result of this capacity expanding work, in the fourth quarter of Metro’s supportive housing services fund all three counties roughly doubled the number of people they housed in the first three quarters. Most households that received housing placement services and rent assistance are considered “chronically homeless” – meaning they have experienced long-term or frequent episodes of homelessness and have a disabling condition like a mental or physical disability or substance abuse disorder.
“In the first year alone, over 1,600 people accessed permanent housing and over 9,000 more were able to avoid homelessness altogether thanks to taxpayers and the work of our county partners,” said Patricia Rojas, director of Metro’s housing services. “This funding is making a real difference in people’s lives. Public trust in this decade-long effort is going to come with Metro demonstrating progress and a commitment to oversight, accountability and transparency. We are holding ourselves to all these standards.”
The funding, approved by voters in 2020 and first distributed to the counties in the fiscal year that started on July 1, 2021, and ended June 30, 2022, pays for two major types of homeless services: those that address long-term homelessness, and those that address short-term homelessness or prevent people from becoming homeless. These services include outreach and emergency shelter; placement into permanent housing including help paying rent; and services in the areas of physical and mental health, legal needs, education and employment, addiction and recovery, and other needed support.
These services are one piece in the much larger picture of efforts addressing homelessness in greater Portland communities, and the information provided here is only about goals specifically met with this funding.
Stability in permanent homes
In Multnomah County, SHS funds were used to place 1,129 people in housing. This number accounted for about 25% of the county’s total housing placements for the year. The number of people helped includes those with “permanent supportive housing,” which is an apartment paid for with long-term rent assistance and paired with intensive health and social services to support stability and wellbeing. This approach is particularly effective for people who have experienced homelessness long term, and who need ongoing support in order to thrive in their homes and maintain stable housing.
This number also includes outcomes from the county’s new program, Move-In Multnomah, which offers rent assistance for up to 12 months for people coming out of homelessness. Other support includes a hotline where landlords can connect with case managers, funds to cover damages beyond the security deposit, and holding fees to cover rent while a tenant is being located for an empty residence. Over 214 people moved into new homes through this program in just four months.
While Multnomah County already had extensive infrastructure in place to do this work, this new funding enabled significant program expansions for Clackamas and Washington counties. In Washington County, annual homelessness investments grew from $5 million to $68 million with the SHS fund. Clackamas County’s $7 million allocation to 14 service provider contracts represented the biggest investment in housing services in the county’s history.
As a result, Clackamas and Washington counties were able to place 170 and 370 people respectively in new homes using Regional Longterm Rent Assistance, in their first year of programming. Hundreds more households with RLRA awards were searching for housing with the help of case managers at the year’s end.
Counties are also continuing to expand the amount of permanent supportive housing available to community members in need. Washington County is preparing to open its first permanent supportive housing apartment community in the former Aloha Inn this fall, and Clackamas County recently opened Tukwila Springs in Gladstone. Both projects use Metro affordable housing bond funds for construction and offer supportive services funded by Metro.
Homelessness prevention and emergency support
During the pandemic many people lost jobs or income, which led to eviction and displacement for some and housing instability for others. This happened at a time when many in the region were already experiencing financial strain and housing insecurity due to rising rents and stagnant wages.
In the first year of the SHS fund, Multnomah County provided eviction prevention services to over 9,000 people through partnerships with 43 community-based organizations and 211 Info. These prevention services represent about a third of the 35,550 people the county helped stay in their homes during the year, including those funded by other sources.
People at risk of losing their homes received emergency rent assistance, legal referrals, advocacy and other services. The fourth quarter was particularly active, with over 6,600 of these interventions taking place between April and June 2022. Oregon Law Center provided legal services to 537 households with eviction notices. Over 1,100 tenants in Home Forward apartment communities received help with rent debt from the pandemic when tenant protections expired and other rent assistance programs ended.
Washington and Clackamas counties will offer eviction prevention and emergency rent assistance programming funded by SHS dollars in the second year of their programs, in addition to what they already offer with other funding sources.
Next steps in the annual report process
The annual reports will now be reviewed by Metro’s Supportive Housing Services Regional Oversight Committee, which helps make sure the program is meeting its goals and makes annual reports and presentations to the Metro Council and the boards of commissioners of Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties regarding the program’s challenges, successes and outcomes.
Want to learn more about the Metro Supportive Housing Services fund? Visit our common questions page, read stories about the impact of this work or view the counties’ annual reports.