What does it take to help people stay housed? Non-profit Do Good Multnomah is using funds from Metro’s supportive housing services measure to help veterans identify barriers keeping them from accessing housing, create navigation plans and transition to long-term stability.
Funding became available from Metro’s supportive housing services measure in July 2021. Since then, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties have partnered with social and health service providers to help thousands of people avoid homelessness or transition into safe, stable housing.
Each county created a local implementation plan to uncover gaps in their existing homelessness systems of care and identify their communities’ greatest needs.
Do Good Multnomah, a veteran-centered organization providing permanent supportive housing and low-barrier emergency shelter in Portland, receives funds through several of Multnomah County’s homeless service programs.
Staff at Do Good rely on one-on-one engagement and trust-building to connect veterans with the resources they need to get housing. Many of the staff at Do Good have lived experience of homelessness, which helps them create deeper connections with the community members who are seeking support. Staff create a safe space that fosters open and honest conversations that can help people overcome the barriers that prevent people from entering permanent housing.
The organization is already seeing the impact of their increased capacity. “Right now, for the first time ever, Do Good is able to offer ongoing support services outside of our on-site buildings,” said Jess Gibly, Do Good Multnomah’s director of supportive housing.
“Basically, it’s an opportunity for folks that are not eligible for project-based units or are wanting to live on their own a little more and have that independence. The fact that we have the funds for a social worker and peer support to provide ongoing retention services is huge, and that only comes out of the SHS funds,” Gibly said.
Do Good also offers on-site programming at the Robert J. Breitung Veteran Building in northeast Portland and Findley Commons in southeast Portland. Both buildings are also managed by the organization and serve veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Housing at the buildings includes both a rent subsidy and supportive housing services. This means residents pay only a portion of market-rate rent and have access to on-site peer support and navigation specialists.
In addition to program funding through the supportive housing services measure, Do Good also received about $2 million to construct Findley Commons through Metro’s affordable housing bond. Residents, who began moving in this spring, will have access to art therapy, wellness groups, gardening, employment programs and clinical alcohol and drug counselors. Alongside affordable rent, these services are an important part of creating housing stability for the veterans who call these buildings home.
“Without [these services] we would just have subsidized housing, which is great and hugely important, but for a lot of folks it’s just not enough,” said Gibly. “You kind of need that additional support service to…help someone learn how to pay rent, how to write a money order. I mean, these are things that our staff work on with folks. You know, how to stay on the phone long enough to get through an automated message system without losing your cool so you can actually get the services and benefits that you need. So really without the funding we can’t offer that, and that makes all the difference.”
Gibly described these services as both supportive and assertive. That means residents get to choose how and when they engage in services without their decision impacting their housing status. “. . . staff continuously do outreach to residents who aren’t engaging and providing different opportunities for people to engage. When people are finally ready to engage, staff are right there ready to receive them and provide that support.”
The research surrounding Do Good’s approach says that when residents maintain their dignity through the freedom of choice, the services might better align with their needs. Because Do Good’s permanent supportive housing programs do not have engagement requirements – like many transitional shelter programs do – a resident will not be punished or lose their housing if they do not feel safe or ready to engage in those services.
When asked why permanent supportive housing is an important part of solving homelessness, Gibly emphasized how important it is for people who have experienced chronic homelessness to have a consistent safe space where they can create a foundation to plan for the future.
“Having that stability is what allows people to plan, you know, think next steps, put down those roots that are so necessary for developing any kind of stability whether or not that’s mental health, stability with substance use, income development, following through on meetings to get your benefits, or even just going to a job interview knowing that you don’t have to wait in line to get a shower so that you can be showered and have your clothes ready for that job interview.” Whereas with a traditional shelter, “it’s really hard to kind of find that space and quiet and stability to work on these things. So that’s what housing’s for.”