PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Dan Field is a new leader at the Joint Office of Homeless Services. On Tuesday, he told Multnomah County commissioners that he accepts the findings of a recent audit and is already making changes.

But the audit was not good news for the agency.

“The findings can be hard to hear hard for you all as leaders of the county and for taxpayers wondering how the dollars are spent effectively,” Field told the commissioners.

There has been a stormy relationship between Portland and Multnomah County over the question of who is supposed to do what and who is to pay regarding the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

Dan Field, the director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, September 19, 2023 (KOIN)
Dan Field, the director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, September 19, 2023 (KOIN)

The county auditor found problems including contract management, poor communication, not doing a good job gathering data such as how many people moved into housing and lack of vision.

Another issue is how non-profit groups that help with housing and mental health had been getting paid. Some are working without a signed contract and aren’t sure when they’d get paid. There is poor coordination between service providers.

The JOHS has had 4 directors in 2 years and staff grew from 21 to 99 in the past 3 years. The commissioners want more accountability.

“When people look out their windshields or look out the door or go to school or to the grocery store, they don’t currently see a big change. And there’s a lot of money being spent,” Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards said.

But the future of the JOHS is up in the air. Portland City Council members plan to take a close look at their partnership with the county at the end of 2023 to decide if they want to split up.

“How do we create a plan which we don’t have?” Commissioner Sharon Meieran said. “How do we create a plan such that we’re in it together and we both have our roles and responsibilities clearly defined and we all agree on.”