Pamplin Media Group – Homeless programs revamped for better results

Many neighbors remain frustrated despite signs of progress with increased spending on housing and services.

Governments across the region are revamping their homeless programs amid limited progress in the face of the crisis. However, many residents may not see much improvement, with no real-time homeless counts available.

Metro recently announced that its two voter-approved homeless programs are moving into their own “stand-alone unit” to better meet community expectations.

The programs distribute funds from the $652.8 million Affordable Housing Bond and the 10-year Support Services Measure to the three counties within elected regional government boundaries. They are transferred from the Planning, Development and Research Department to the Office of the Chief Operating Officer.

“Our housing team will continue their work to functionally end chronic homelessness in greater Portland, as part of the 10-year program created by voters in May 2020 and launched in July 2021, as well as their work to build new apartments for 12,000 people around our area, apartments that will have affordable rents for the next 60 years,” Marissa Madrigal, Metro’s chief operating officer, told the Portland Tribune.

Madrigal does not foresee a significant increase in the administrative costs of the transfer.

The announcement coincides with Metro’s release of a report on the Support Services Measure’s first year of spending, which was approved by voters in May 2020. According to the report, the funding accommodated more than 1,600 homeless, helped over 9,200 people avoid eviction and created 741 new year-round shelter beds.

However, some of these goals are lower than Metro’s initial goals. It previously promised to house more than 2,400 households. However, Metro promised to create 700 new accommodation beds by June this year and only promised to prevent the eviction of 1,000 households.

However, spending was well below disposable income. The Large Business and High Income Tax brought in $240 million in its first fiscal year. This is significantly more than the initial estimate of $150 million. But the report says only $56 million was actually spent.

And the expenses weren’t even split across the three counties within the metro boundaries. Although Multnomah County spent 38% of its available funds, Washington County only spent 24% and Clackamas County only spent 6.6%.

This prompted Metro Council President Lynn Peterson and Metro Councilor Christine Lewis to issue a statement Sept. 2 that the committee overseeing spending would identify “the obstacles and barriers to spending that existed in the Clackamas County in the first year of the program – both operational and political.”

Counties are due to release their first annual spending reports on Oct. 31 and present them to Metro’s Supportive Housing Services Oversight Committee in December. Metro and county officials say spending — and the number of people served — is expected to increase in coming years as programs build capacity.

PHOTO COURTESY: KOIN 6 NEWS - Recent homeless campers at Laurelhurst Park.

Results hard to see for many

Despite the progress cited by Metro, homelessness remains the most pressing issue in Portland, particularly disputes between encampments and neighbors. The city currently lists over 350 active campsites in the city. Local media regularly publish articles on the conflicts. Here are some recent examples:

August 15th : KGW-TV reports families in North Portland are selling their homes because of camping along the Peninsula Crossing Trail.

September 15: KOIN 6 News reports that owners of Curt’s RV Storage in St. Johns blame a nearby homeless camp for tens of thousands of dollars in theft and damage.

September 15: KGW-TV News reports that a man living in a homeless camp in southwest Portland smashes the windows of cars driving through the streets.

September 16: FOX 12 News reports that organizers of the upcoming Polish Festival in Southeast Portland have canceled it due to a homeless camp near the Polish Library Building Association where it was to be held.

September 19: KOIN 6 News reports that neighbors along outer Southeast Powell Boulevard are complaining about people living in dozens of RVs and cars in front of their home.

September 21: FOX 12 News reports that the city plans to remove a homeless camp in Laurelhurst Park after neighbors hire an attorney who says an arborist reported that falling tree branches posed a threat to anyone in the area. under them.

September 21: KOIN 6 News reports that Saints Peter and Paul Episcopal Church is defending itself against accusations that its weekly dinners support a homeless camp accused of shooting late at night the previous week.

September 21: Several Portland residents describe the problems created by homelessness in their neighborhood during an hour-long town hall on homelessness. Mayor Ted Wheeler responds by saying, “I’ve heard from our neighbors and they expect us to do more and be better and we will.”

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The 12x12 pods where some of the homeless are finally living at Multnomah Safe Rest Village.

City, county also under reorganization

Portland began revamping its homeless programs in November 2021 during its biannual budget adjustment process. The council authorized the creation of a Street Services Coordination Center structured as a unified command structure with representatives from Multnomah County to better “direct, plan and coordinate responses to street behaviors and homelessness. “.

Mayor Ted Wheeler activated the coordination center, overseen by Community Safety Division Director Mike Myers, on September 14. At that time, Portland had contracted with the joint city and county office of homeless services to book 98 beds daily at 11 homeless shelters. They are offered to displaced homeless people during the search of camps.

The availability of shelter beds has enabled the city’s Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program to meet legal requirements to resume sweeps of homeless camps that have been virtually suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. . In recent months, large encampments have been cleared and cleared in Old Town, Columbia Slough, the Big Four Corners Natural Area and along Northeast 33rd Avenue.

However, not everyone accepts offers. According to the city, as of mid-September, only 850 people had initially expressed interest in a shelter and only 353 had used a shelter bed for at least one night. On average, there are between 14 and 20 vacancies every day.

Wheeler recently said JOHS was beta testing an app to show availability at all shelters. However, there is still no real-time count of all homeless people in the area.

Portland is finally making real progress on the $258 million affordable housing bond approved by voters in 2016. Four projects are now complete and four more are expected to open by the end of the year. The most recent was the 110-unit Cathedral Park Apartments in St. Johns which opened on September 21. A total of 900 bond-funded affordable housing units will have opened by the end of 2022.

And Portland has started opening Safe Rest Villages which Commissioner Dan Ryan has championed, but not as quickly as originally planned.

Portland City Council and the Multnomah County Commission also made a number of changes to the management of the Joint Homeless Services Office when they renewed the intergovernmental agreement that created it in April. Among other things, they created an executive leadership group to improve communication and coordination between the two governments. The group consists of the county chairman, a city commissioner and two staff members appointed by them. President Deborah Kafoury praises Commissioner Dan Ryan, the city’s delegate, as an “enthusiastic” partner who helped increase shelter capacity from 650 to 2,500 beds during the pandemic.

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