Supportive Housing Key To Ending Homeless Crisis

The Portland Housing Bureau (PHB), the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Multnomah County Mental Health & Addiction Services, and Oregon Housing and Community Services, have awarded more than $12 million to two projects that will combine new housing and mental health services in a targeted effort to combat chronic homelessness. 

“This innovative pilot is the first of its kind—leveraging state, county and city partnerships in a targeted effort to better use our dollars to address chronic homelessness, with an emphasis on providing crucial mental health services” says Mayor Wheeler. “Homelessness is a national humanitarian crisis. It will take more than cities—but regional, state-wide and federal partnerships to solve it.”

PHB’s Notice of Funding Availability, released this summer, called for innovative, cost-effective proposals to create new Supportive Housing for homeless individuals experiencing mental illness, with a focus on updating the Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) housing model. The funding opportunity marks the first time capital funding to build affordable housing has been bundled with funding for the services vulnerable residents need to thrive in that housing. 

Two projects have been awarded the funding, the agencies announced today. Combined, the projects will create a total of 98 units – nearly double the 50 originally envisioned in the solicitation. Seventy-eight of the new units will provide Supportive Housing. 

The Division Street Apartments, proposed by Central City Concern and Related Northwest, will provide 40 SRO units of Permanent Supportive Housing and 20 studios, with 40 of the units reserved for extremely low-income individuals experiencing mental illness, including severe mental illness. Central City Concern will be the service provider.

Findley Commons, proposed by Do Good Multnomah and HomeFirst Development, will redevelop an underutilized parking lot at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on SE Powell Blvd to create 38 units of housing focusing on underserved Veterans, including Veterans of color, women, and extremely-low income Veterans. In this model, SRO units would serve to stabilize Veterans, who could eventually transition into the larger units. 

“Some people need more than an apartment key to rebuild their lives. They also need treatment and services,” says Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “For those neighbors, the only answer to homelessness is a home of their own with the right support. This is exactly what these projects represent because everybody needs privacy and a place to call home when working through a crisis.”

Expanding Permanent Supportive Housing over the coming decade by roughly 200 units a year is a critical element of the local strategy to address chronic homelessness. Permanent Supportive Housing combines accessible, affordable housing and the supportive services, including mental health and addiction services. 

In addition, Findley Commons will serve as a demonstration project for a new subsidy model combining unsubsidized units and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers. It also models how the city’s faith communities can assist in the local homeless effort by making their excess land available for affordable housing development.

“The benefits of permanent supportive housing are well documented, and this is a proven strategy we will implement statewide,” said Margaret Salazar, Director of Oregon Housing and Community Services. “Oregon Housing and Community Services is thrilled to contribute $2 million to the City of Portland and Multnomah County’s efforts to increase supportive housing and address homelessness and housing instability for Oregon’s most vulnerable community members.” 

Source: City of Portland

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