Gresham helps homeless get back on their feet for good

Multnomah County

The Homeless Street Team takes immediate, long-term action to help people stay off the streets

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As cities across Oregon try to find solutions to the homeless crisis, leaders in Gresham have developed a system to get people off the streets for good.

When those living on the streets of Gresham decide they are ready for change, a group steps in to offer immediate help.

A Homeless Services team patrols Gresham neighbors on a daily basis. They check on known campsites, form relationships and ask individuals if they are ready for help.

For those who are, resources like lodging, food, clothing, identification, counseling and job placement are immediately provided.

The team has helped nearly 140 people secure long-term housing in 2019. Dannielle Wight is part of that figure.

“I met her Monday. By Monday evening, we had gotten her an I.D., health insurance, a doctor, a counselor, a phone, a 5-day hotel stay,” said Kevin Dahlgren with the Homeless Services street team.

KOIN 6 News spoke with Wight on Thursday. She was set to start her new job later that night.

“There is no way I could have done this by myself. There is just no way,” she said. “And when I don’t want to do things, to know that he (Dahlgren) is there saying, ‘Come on, I’m going to be there in a half an hour, get on up, let’s keep pushing.'”

When the Homeless Services team started in 2015, there were 138 people living homeless in Gresham. Today, the program estimates the number is down to 50. Tents have all but disappeared.

Gresham leaders credit funding from the city and county, as well as various partnerships, for the ability to take such quick action without putting people on waitlists or only providing temporary relief. Avoiding these things, according to the team, is why the people they help don’t end up back on the streets.

“With our partnerships, we have quick access to that motel room that we need or the shelter that we need or the housing program that we need because we can’t tell someone who is ready for change to go ahead and wait for six months, get on the waitlist,” said City of Gresham Senior Manager Joe Walsh.

As for Wight — she looking to the future and a new chapter in life.

“I have three kids and I miss them and they are just waiting for me,” she said.

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