PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As Oregon continues to find ways to tackle the homeless and housing crisis, Washington County has taken community input to get people off the streets.
The county has seen a drop in people experiencing homelessness, and while they’ve credited work like adding 400 shelter beds, officials say those are just some of the solutions in the works.
“We are going to be the emergency room in our community responding to homelessness until we address these larger economic conditions,” said Jessica Larson, assistant director of Washington County’s Department of Housing Services.
During the most recent count, Washington County reported 773 people experiencing homelessness, down more than 4%.
They credit efforts like the voter-approved Metro Supportive Housing Services measure that helped boost shelter beds and affordable housing, but say that those programs are just the first steps in tackling the region’s housing and homeless crisis.
Officials met with residents Tuesday evening to go over one of the new measures expected to go into effect July 1. It’s an ordinance designed to reduce unsanctioned camping and get people into available shelter beds that would also place limits on camping – limiting camping to five days and on public property.
The next community planning is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Cedar Hills Recreation Center. There’s also a virtual meeting planned for Wednesday, May 31st.
Other measures in the works are safe rest villages similar to what have popped up around Multnomah County in recent years.
Larson said one component is to quickly develop shelter capacity.
“Sometimes the fastest shelter capacity we can bring on are temporary pod-style shelter programs that can be picked up, set down and prepared in a matter of months to create immediate shelter options with around the clock services, staffing and ultimately those connections to stable housing out of shelter out of homelessness,” she said.
One program in its early stages could bring safe rest pods to the extra parking lot of the Aloha United Methodist Church, which the pastor said was land not being used.
Pastor Keren Rodriguez said that after seeing many unhoused come to them for help, this is one way they can give back.
“I hope the neighborhood can be a part of it. This is not an us versus them thing. We have served the community for many years,” Rodriguez said.
Carol Greenough, a board member of Family Promise of Tualatin Valley, said she joined the meeting to gain some perspective on the concerns her neighbors have.
“The other thing I learned is that people are worried and scared because homelessness is in our community and they don’t know what to do about it and they’re afraid it will affect their quality of life,” Greenough said. “It’s a complex problem and we have to be patient. We’re not going to solve it in a day. We’re working hard to solve a lot of it but it’s going to take time.”
As for the Aloha Safe Rest pods, the community will have a chance to weigh in on those during a meeting set for Monday, June 5 at 6 p.m. in Aloha’s Reedville Elementary School.
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.