Portland State University Study: Positive Outcomes For Village And Motel Homeless Shelters

A recent study conducted by Portland State University in March has found that alternative shelters, such as village-style shelters and motels converted into shelters, produce better outcomes for homeless individuals compared to traditional shelters. The study, commissioned by the Joint Office of Homeless Services, analyzed shelter costs, client experiences, and client outcomes, providing valuable insights into which types of shelters can effectively serve different populations. The research utilized data from clients who entered shelters, including Portland Safe Rest Villages and JOHS shelters, on or before June 30, 2023, or those who exited a shelter on or after July 1, 2021.

According to the study, alternative shelters demonstrated a higher success rate in transitioning people into housing. Safe Rest Villages had the lowest percentage of individuals exiting back into unsheltered homelessness at 3%, followed by motel shelters at 6%, JOHS villages at 12%, and adult congregate shelters at 15%. Researchers attribute the lower success rate of adult congregate shelters to shorter stays, which limit the time available for building relationships between staff and clients and finding pathways to permanent housing.

The study also emphasized the importance of considering various factors when deciding which types of shelters to establish. Key considerations include proximity to services and amenities, reducing discrimination in homeless services and housing placement, and the availability of identity-based shelters tailored to specific populations, such as shelters for individuals with medical issues, women-only shelters, and shelters for the LGBTQ+ community.

One notable finding was that individuals experiencing homelessness expressed a preference for alternative shelters due to the increased safety and autonomy they provide compared to traditional congregate shelters. While the study highlighted the superior outcomes of alternative shelters, it also underscored the need for a variety of shelter options to effectively serve diverse homeless populations.

For instance, motel shelters offer advantages such as faster acquisition and opening, comparable operating costs to other shelters, and the flexibility to convert into permanent housing despite higher initial costs. On the other hand, village shelters may be better suited for rural and suburban communities with available unused land and fewer opportunities to acquire motels.

Overall, the researchers concluded that transitioning individuals into housing is more cost-effective than providing long-term shelter. These findings provide valuable insights for policymakers and organizations working to address homelessness and ensure that shelters are designed to meet the specific needs of homeless individuals in their communities.