The latest reports from Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties show that all three are on track to meet or exceed goals to provide shelter or transitional housing in the first year of Metro’s supportive housing services fund.
Last summer Metro began distributing supportive housing services funds to each of the region’s three counties, to expand existing programs and support new services, with the goal of ending chronic homelessness in greater Portland.
According to Metro’s housing director, Patricia Rojas, Metro supportive housing services is the biggest investment per capita in homelessness services in the country. “Together with county and non-profit partners we are building a regional system that helps end homelessness for thousands of people while preventing homelessness for thousands more. We are in our first year of building and implementation. County partners are moving fast and the data shows that we are already making progress. We look forward to the coming months and years as we continue to build more and do more – making a transformational impact on people’s lives.”
The funding 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. The services are one piece in the much larger picture of addressing homelessness in greater Portland communities and the information provided here is only about goals met with this funding specifically.
Addressing long-term homelessness
Two counties have exceeded goals for new shelter beds and transitional housing. Clackamas County added 85 units of transitional housing and shelter beds (20 over goal), and Washington County added 102 year-round beds and 227 winter beds (79 over total goal). Multnomah County was able to draw on shelter funding from the City of Portland and the federal government to exceed its shelter goals, so though the SHS measure fund was not a primary source of financial support, it was used to create 163 new beds. This overall increase in shelter capacity means more options for houseless community members to access safety off the streets as they transition into permanent housing.
Since July 2021, more than 650 households across greater Portland have been stabilized in permanent supportive housing thanks to this funding. “Permanent supportive housing” means an apartment paid for with long-term rent assistance, 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.
“The latest point-in-time count shows that the region continues to see significant numbers of people who are experiencing chronic homelessness,” says Patricia Rojas, director of Metro’s housing program. “Chronic homelessness describes individuals who have experienced homelessness for a significant period of time, have at least one disability and have substantial and ongoing financial barriers. Permanent supportive housing is a strategy that has been proven nationally and locally to be effective in helping people experiencing chronic homelessness to access and maintain stable housing.”
As of the end of March, Multnomah County placed 452 households, Clackamas County placed 68, and Washington County placed 159 households in permanent supportive housing (PSH). An additional 211 households in Washington County were in the process of finding PSH with the assistance of program staff. Counties continue to expand the amount of PSH available for community members experiencing chronic homelessness, with Washington County preparing to open its first PSH apartment community in the former Aloha Inn this fall.
Addressing short-term homelessness and prevention
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 response, Multnomah County exceeded its first-year goal for homelessness prevention by more than 150%, preventing 2,500 households from being evicted and potentially becoming homeless. This support included emergency rent assistance, legal referrals, advocacy and other services. Multnomah County also helped 298 people experiencing homelessness into long-term housing using rapid re-housing and short-term rent assistance made available through the SHS fund.
Helping people navigate the system is another key part of this work. Multnomah County’s Family System Mobile Housing and Navigation Team helps people throughout the process of obtaining housing. Their barrier mitigation program connected 83 people with the legal services they needed to resolve issues preventing them from getting stable housing. These services include criminal record expungements, landlord/tenant debt negotiations, and fine/fee waivers. In Clackamas County, 66 clients are working with navigators to secure permanent housing.
For the first six months the funding was available, counties focused on creating or expanding relationships with the community-based organizations who are doing much of the work on the ground to end homelessness in greater Portland. In recognition of the overrepresentation of communities of color in the homeless population, racial equity and cultural responsiveness remain a central value to the SHS fund. (For more detail on what races and ethnicities are overrepresented in the homeless population, see the “inequitable outcomes” section of the counties’ local implementation plans.) To ensure people have access to culturally appropriate support, the counties are working with organizations that serve specific communities, such as Bienestar, Centro Cultural, Native American Youth and Family Center, Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization, Urban League and others.
Want to learn more about the Metro Supportive Housing Services fund? Visit our common questions page.
Data from each county's quarterly report