Housing Multnomah Now Exceeds Goal, Housing 306 Households By Deadline

Brian Mitchell, pictured above, is one of the many people who received housing through the Housing Multnomah Now program. The program, which successfully housed 306 households, exceeded its goal of housing 300 people by June 30, 2024.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services, through its network of providers, has successfully housed 306 households as part of the Housing Multnomah Now pilot program, surpassing Chair Jessica Vega Pederson’s goal of housing 300 people by June 30, 2024.

This initiative focused on aiding the County’s most vulnerable residents, particularly those living in tents, on sidewalks, and in vehicles, including individuals who had recently moved into shelters from the street. The program’s success was made possible through the efforts of seven nonprofit homeless services providers: Transition Projects, Cultivate Initiatives, Rockwood CDC, Urban League of Portland, Trash for Peace/Ground Score Association, and Sunstone Way (formerly All Good Northwest).

“We aim high in our response to the crisis we are seeing on our streets. That’s what the community expects and should expect,” said Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “With this program, we experimented, adapted, focused on geographic diversity, and delivered the results we promised.”

Initially announced in early 2023 and formally launched last June, the pilot program began by targeting large, high-impact campsites in the central city and east side, starting with a site in Northwest Portland near the Steel Bridge. However, changing conditions, including a decrease in large campsites, prompted a shift in focus to a wider range of geographic locations such as Thousand Acres in East Multnomah County, Portland’s Old Town, and the Gateway neighborhood.

The program introduced new outreach methods, including deploying housing navigators, case managers, and dedicated funding for rent assistance directly to campsites. Unlike traditional outreach, this approach enabled workers to connect people directly to housing resources in the field.

“Housing Multnomah Now was a game changer for supporting our participants’ transitions into permanent housing opportunities. It’s been one of the most seamless outreach tools available to us since the pandemic started,” said Katrina Holland, Strategic Engagement Officer and Interim Director of Housing Services at Urban League of Portland. “The flexibility, large sums of dollars planned for rent assistance, and program structure responsive to culturally specific needs were very helpful in meeting our participants where they are and offering hope for the future.”

The program also piloted new technology tools, such as a mobile app that allowed street outreach providers to input data in the field, geotagging the locations of their interactions. This tool was later expanded countywide as part of the Joint Office’s Built for Zero initiative. Lessons learned from these efforts will guide future data collection and the development of a tool for identifying available shelter beds.

The Joint Office built strong connections between outreach teams, case managers, and alternative shelter providers through the Multi-Agency Collaborative group. This group, which also led the local response as part of the statewide Oregon All In initiative, used an emergency command structure to coordinate efforts.

The program’s ability to adapt to changing conditions on the ground was key to its success. Initially designed to serve people in large campsites, the pilot had to pivot when it became clear that people were more dispersed in smaller, scattered campsites. This shift was facilitated by the opening of new low-barrier shelters, which required additional resources to transition people from shelters to permanent housing.

These adaptations allowed the program to increase the number of housing placements significantly. By expanding eligibility criteria and referral pathways, Housing Multnomah Now was able to serve a broader range of individuals, ensuring that vulnerable people outside designated geographic areas were not excluded.

“These program changes show that we are able to adapt to the realities of our community. The crisis we are seeing on our streets is urgent, and it demands we provide a flexible, responsive approach,” said Joint Office of Homeless Services Director Dan Field. “We didn’t rigidly stick to something that wasn’t meeting the needs of our community. We made adjustments intentionally that allowed us to work quickly while still serving our most vulnerable community members. These pivots also helped free up desperately needed shelter beds, allowing more people to come from the streets into shelter.”

The housing placements from Housing Multnomah Now build on the Joint Office’s success in rehousing 234 households through Gov. Tina Kotek’s Oregon All In initiative, totaling 540 households across both initiatives. In

the first nine months of the fiscal year, Joint Office funding helped 3,587 people move from homelessness to housing. The placements achieved in the fourth quarter will add to that number.

While the Housing Multnomah Now pilot ended on June 30 and won’t house additional people next fiscal year, it will continue providing housing assistance, case management, and support services for those already housed. The Board of Commissioners allocated $5 million to fund rent and services for these individuals, ensuring their continued stability.

In July, providers will finalize housing placement data in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). The Joint Office will evaluate lessons learned from the pilot to inform future efforts and expand successful strategies.

“This program’s success means a great deal to the people whose lives have been impacted – and we know there are many more who need and deserve these resources,” said Chair Vega Pederson. “Today we celebrate the success, carry the lessons we learned forward in the larger work of the Joint Office and redouble our efforts to break down silos, identify and fill gaps in our systems and commit to continue making more of these resources available.”