Supportive Housing Tax Producing Results

Photo: Ford, Brad

A groundbreaking voter-approved regional effort to address chronic homelessness in greater Portland released provisional first-year data today, showing that more than 1,600 people were stabilized in permanent housing in the first year of the initiative.

Additionally, the fund helped more than 9,200 people receive eviction protection services, preventing them from losing their homes. The fund also supported the creation of 514 new year-round shelter beds, and helped 159 people find jobs through new employment programs.

Overall, the 1,600 people stabilized in permanent housing is equal to 24.7 percent of the number of people identified as homeless in the January 2022 regional Point in Time count (although not every individual stabilized is an individual who was identified in that count).

The data comes from the fourth quarter progress reports from Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, which implement the fund at the local level under Metro’s oversight. The counties will submit comprehensive 2021-22 Annual Reports to the fund’s oversight committee later this fall.

“Back in January, I promised the region that we would see tangible progress on homelessness within six months,” said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. “We’ve made huge strides. In the first year of a 10-year effort, we’re well on our way to our goal. This is what happens when we collaborate as a region.”

Almost as many people were housed in this fund’s fourth quarter as in the first three combined. This shows that the counties’ work building internal capacity and expanding their service provider networks in the first nine months is paying off.

Multnomah County’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a guiding strategy and first-year budget for the Joint Office of Homeless Services that prioritized housing placements and behavioral health connections, along with work to expand shelter and street outreach options.

“Multnomah County set ambitious goals with these new resources – cutting through the noise and keeping our focus on the reality that we need a yes/and approach to ending homelessness,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “That means helping more people find homes of their own, investing in behavioral health services, putting more outreach workers on the ground to reach people where they are, and creating more space in our shelters. We accomplished all of those things – housing 1,129 people and adding more than 300 shelter beds. And the fact is, we are only getting started.”

Washington County supportive housing services director Jes Larson said her team has been laying a foundation of success that will last for the duration of the program.

“As community infrastructure and capacity continues to increase over the next several years, so will our housing outcomes,” Larson said. “We’re proud of housing 340 people in Washington County in this first year, and we’re eager to continue our work of functionally ending chronic homelessness.”

During the fourth quarter, the SHS program in Clackamas County conducted six procurements, with a total value of more than $6 million, to significantly expand services in FY 22-23. These upcoming services will mark the largest one-time investment in housing and homeless services in the history of Clackamas County.

“We now have an extensive outreach program, infrastructure and staff that we’ve never had before,” said Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith. “This will allow Clackamas County to move the needle on addressing chronic homelessness.” 

Contracts include outreach and engagement services to assist with updating waitlists, finding and connecting with individuals as they come to the top of housing program waitlists, and assist with navigation into permanent housing. Additional services will include providing supplies to help people experiencing homelessness meet their basic needs, facilitating connections to safety-off-the-streets services, mental health outreach, and culturally specific outreach.

The Metro supportive housing fund, approved by voters in May 2020 and launched on July 1, 2021, is a 10-year effort to address chronic homelessness across the Metro region. The fund is overseen by Metro, the regional government, and implemented by housing and homeless services programs in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. It’s funded through an incremental taxes on high-income earners and large businesses in greater Portland.

Counties are scheduled to release their annual fund reports Oct. 31 and present them to the Supportive Housing Services Oversight Committee in December. These reports will provide insight into goals, implementation and progress. The Oversight Committee will also meet in September to review data from the Q4 reports.

Metro officials will now review the Year 1 data comprehensively to thoroughly verify the data, look for opportunities for improvement and prepare a Supportive Housing Services executive summary for last fiscal year.

“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, Metro’s director of housing services. “This funding is making a real difference in people’s lives. Public trust in this decade-long effort is going to come from the progress that people see with their eyes, and Metro demonstrating a commitment to oversight, accountability and transparency. We are holding ourselves to all of these standards.”

The fund is one of several comprehensive regional programs to address housing and related challenges across greater Portland. The Metro affordable housing bond program, approved by voters in 2018, has funded nearly 1,400 fixed-rent apartments under construction across the region right now, with another 1,600 in permitting and design and 265 more already opened. Additionally, in the last year, Metro’s RID Patrol has averaged around 3 tons of waste pickup from around the region’s public spaces every day, while Metro’s Regional Refresh Fund is sponsoring neighborhood waste collection events all over greater Portland.

Source: Metro

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