Multnomah, Clackamas grapple with homeless issues

Civic Affairs

Clackamas County held a town hall to listen to residents' ideas on how to help solve homelessness

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Dozens of Clackamas County residents joined commissioners during a virtual town hall on Wednesday to discuss homelessness and affordable housing.

Compassion was a common thread during the online session. One community members questioned why temporary housing is provided after a natural disaster but not for people who are living outdoors. Another person said a local dad has a full-time job as a chef and still can’t afford a one-bedroom apartment.

Clackamas County commissioners said the county will build 1,500 affordable housing units by 2025. They want the community’s input on which types of housing are needed most.

Support for homeless services is also on the way in neighboring Multnomah County. Denis Theriault with the Joint Office of Homeless Services said money from the Supportive Housing Services Measure passed in 2020 will be on the way within the next few months.

“In July, the first dollars from that revenue source are going to start flowing to all three counties,” said Theriault. “Multnomah County is going to get $50 million and that’s going to help us expand not just shelter options but really housing and housing services.”

But Theriault said some people need wrap-around supportive services as well as housing in order to stay off the streets. He said the county is working to combine housing services with behavior health programs for those who need it. A behavioral health resource center is expected to open in downtown Portland next year.

“People with lived experience with behavioral health issues were telling us this is a thing that we see a need for that would help us as we see it,” said Theriault. “And we were working with those folks to help design the programming.”

By using some federal COVID-19 money, Theriault said the county has helped 6,000 people stay in their homes through rent assistance programs. He said, “There’s some hope. It’s going to take a while — everything was made worse by COVID.”

Theriault hopes more people will start to focus on actions to keep people from becoming homeless in the first place, instead of trying to fix it after it happens.

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