The Shelter System
Today on Out of the Streets of Portland, we’re going to hear about how our expanding and innovative shelter system works, how people can access shelter, and what it means to expand shelter alongside a Housing First, but not Housing Only practice that centers the people’s needs in the re-housing process.
We’ll speak with Gwyn, who along with her partner, Dan, made it off the streets and into permanent housing after staying for eight months at shelters run by Do Good Multnomah.
Since it launched in 2016, the Joint Office of Homeless Services has embarked on an historic expansion of shelter beds in Multnomah County. In 2020, when the COVID-19 global pandemic began, these efforts accelerated. At full capacity, the number of shelter beds supported through the Joint Office increased from 800 in 2016 to almost 2000 as of January 2023. And hundreds more beds are on the way.
We have shelters for adults, people in families, unaccompanied youths, and domestic violence survivors. Shelters are reservation-based, open 24/7, and welcome partners, pets and personal belongings. They offer meals, and some have full kitchens. They also offer laundry access, showers, and case management and housing navigation services.
You can find more information about our shelter system, including a map of locations, at https://multco.us/johs.
Over the past two years, seventeen new shelters have opened with support from the Joint Office – including alternative village-style shelters, motel shelters and traditional congregate shelters. .
So why have a both-and “housing first” approach that provides shelters while also ensuring people have options so they can move on from shelter — or never have to come to one in the first place?
Research conducted by Portland State’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative found housing first participants experience higher levels of housing retention and use fewer emergency and justice system resources than people in shelter-only communities.This produces cost savings for hospital emergency departments, a decrease in inpatient hospitalizations, and reduced dependence on the criminal justice system.
Cara Kangas works at 2-1-1 Info, which is a free phone number that anyone can call anytime of the day or night to find out about services and get help and support.
There is a group of people who have long histories of cycling through the mental health, corrections, and homeless services systems. By aligning those systems to identify and better serve those people – we will save the community money and improve outcomes for those served. Housing specialists work one-on-one with shelter residents to identify and remove barriers (getting new IDs, clearing old debts, etc.). We also work with landlords to request some flexibility and create positive rental relationships, including ongoing mediation or mitigation funding that supports a long-term housing situation.
Housing specialists continue working with newly housed families to ensure long-term stability, including rent assistance, workforce assistance, and access to needed social services.