Multnomah County, Portland Present Plan To Cut The Homelessness In Half by 2026

Multnomah County and the city of Portland have revealed a comprehensive plan aimed at transforming the region’s response to homelessness. The plan, developed by the offices of Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, sets a goal to reduce the unsheltered homeless population by 50% by 2026. It outlines various strategies, including the addition of new shelter beds, the construction of more affordable housing, improved access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, enhanced data collection, and the establishment of new committees to oversee these efforts.

While it remains to be seen how this latest plan will bring about real change, the previous plan established the Joint Office of Homeless Services, a county department funded jointly by the city. The new plan will build upon the Joint Office’s existing infrastructure and will involve collaboration with healthcare providers, housing agencies, and all levels of government. Vega Pederson emphasized that this collaborative approach is the most significant departure from the 2015 plan.

At the heart of the plan is the objective of reducing the region’s unsheltered homeless population. Currently, out of an estimated 11,153 people experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County, at least 5,398 are living without shelter, while others reside in temporary shelters or alternative accommodations. This means that the city and county aim to move at least 2,699 individuals into shelter or housing by the end of 2025.

The work towards achieving these goals will be overseen by three committees that will be assembled soon. The steering committee, consisting of local elected officials, will establish annual targets. This committee’s decisions will be informed by two advisory boards: an implementation committee comprising directors from city and county housing, health, and public safety departments, and a community advisory committee consisting of individuals who have experienced homelessness or have worked in homeless services. These committees are expected to be formed by June.

The success of the plan relies on both new and existing funding from the city, county, and state. It will leverage state legislative funding for affordable housing projects and make use of the Joint Office’s annual budget. In the previous fiscal year, the city of Portland contributed $45.5 million to the office’s budget, while the county provided $59.8 million. Additionally, the office benefits from $207 million this year from a regional tax designated for homeless services. However, the Joint Office has faced criticism from the city and the public in recent times for delays in distributing these funds to service providers.

With the unveiling of this ambitious plan, Multnomah County and Portland are demonstrating their commitment to addressing homelessness proactively and holistically. By engaging multiple stakeholders and utilizing various funding sources, they aim to make a significant impact on reducing unsheltered homelessness in the region.