Multnomah County has unveiled a strategy to address homelessness that will involve moving hundreds of people off the streets and into apartments secured by the county.
County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson also called for increased transparency from the county and Portland’s Joint Office of Homeless Services as they find ways to curb homelessness. The plan, called Housing Multnomah Now, will go into effect immediately. The $14 million plan focuses on a housing-first model.
The plan will involve a coordinating group made of local and state agencies, including the Joint Office, the city of Portland, behavioral health providers, shelter providers and culturally specific organizations. It’s based on a pilot program and housing-first strategy in Seattle.
The housing-first model prioritizes housing over other services needed to get people off the street. The plan initially aims to house unsheltered people in central Portland over the next four months. After that, it will expand into the eastern part of Multnomah County.
“The goal of this model is to connect people directly to housing and stop the shuffle of moving people from one location to another as they’re living outside,” Vega Pederson wrote in a statement.
Under the plan, outreach workers will collaborate with community partners in providing housing to the unsheltered people they meet. The county hopes that the accelerated housing placement will open more beds in the shelter system.
To find available housing, the county will build on its Move-in Multnomah pilot program and the efforts of Commissioner Susheela Jayapal to identify available housing units. The county is offering landlord incentives and rent assistance to identify apartments on the market.
“We need landlords to respond urgently to provide those living on our streets with a safe place to stay,” Chair Vega Pederson said. “We hope landlords will step up as they have in the past and continue to help us address this crisis.”
To pay for this expansion, Vega Pederson will ask the Board of Commissioners to invest carryover funding from the Supportive Housing Services Measure. Vega Pederson also is calling on the Oregon Legislature to fund Gov. Tina Kotek’s proposed $130 million infusion in emergency funding to address homelessness.
The plan comes on the heels of an announcement from Jan. 31 to improve transparency and accountability within Oregon’s homelessness and housing services system, by creating new performance indicators to help track, report and measure its success.
A task force will develop these new indicators and will include representatives from the county and the city of Portland.