The role emergency shelters play in ending homelessness
Emergency shelters provide immediate and temporary shelter for those experiencing homelessness. There are different types of emergency shelters supported by the Joint Office but all include spaces to sleep, use the restroom and access food. Many shelters are also equipped with full kitchens and laundry rooms.
Our approach to shelters
Shelter stays are meant to offer connection to permanent housing options and other support services. Most emergency shelters are low-barrier, meaning they welcome partners, pets and possessions, and are designed to be trauma-informed and able to meet participant needs for privacy and community. Shelters are reservation-based, with most open 24/7, and do not require people to line up for beds each night.
Expanding shelter capacity
Our work prioritizes new shelters as well as developing new models (villages, safe park sites, motels) that meet people where they are. As of 2023, the JOHS supports a maximum capacity of nearly 2,000 beds, motel rooms and sleeping units — up from 650 in 2015 — with plans to grow.
How to find shelters
The JOHS primarily supports low-barrier shelter opportunities designed to be trauma-informed and able to meet participants’ needs for privacy and community. Our focus is to create shelters that center the needs of those experiencing homelessness while providing equity and dignity-oriented models for sheltering.
Types of shelters
Congregate shelters are facilities with multiple people sleeping in bunk beds or cots in the same room, often in rooms divided into more private bays, and offering spaces like kitchens, bathrooms, case management rooms, gathering spaces, clinics and laundry rooms.
Motel shelters are a new model of shelter providing stays in a motel room funded by the JOHS. Priority for motel room shelters is given to people in vulnerable populations, such as those who are at higher risk for severe consequences from COVID-19 or who have chronic health or disabling conditions.
Family shelters are spaces reserved specifically for parents or guardians with children. Every family receives their own room and bathroom in our system. Shelters also provide access to meals, showers, laundry, computers, and clothing. Family shelter providers include Path Home (formerly Portland Homeless Family Solutions) and Our Just Future.
Domestic violence shelters are confidential, safe spaces where people who are survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault can find safety and shelter in a protected location.
Alternative shelters are typically village-style outdoor shelters where people sleep in individual sleeping units or tiny homes equipped with heating and cooling systems, with access to showers, community spaces and services in an indoor or outdoor shared space. Services are often available in these alternative shelter sites, including on-site case management, physical and mental health services and housing placement.