PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Eight months after Multnomah County leaders announced the Housing Multnomah Now program, reports show that just 18 previously unhoused people were successfully moved into a new home.
That number, which was first reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive, is a fraction of the county’s ever-changing goal for the program, which was designed to move people straight from unsheltered homelessness into housing.
The delay stems from two challenges: connecting people who are homeless and finding enough apartments or housing for them to use.
Multnomah County officials say landlords began signing up for the program this month. However, they found that there are few landlords available – and nowhere near the scale needed to reach the original 300-person goal that County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson set in February.
County spokesperson Denis Theirault said this is the county’s first dedicated program that moves people straight into housing, specifically those who have oftentimes never been contacted by service providers before. Yet he said there were challenges in reaching those people, struggles in connecting them with services, and struggles for service providers to have enough staff to provide what each person needs.
“Housing first always means housing with services, the right services for the person, so that’s one of the challenges,” Theirault said. “We don’t want to just set someone up in an apartment without something that they need to keep them in that apartment, safely housed.”
Theriault said he believes a new program to connect service providers with available housing units will speed up the moving process.
“It’s a pilot project,” he said. “We’re learning things, some of those folks have some serious issues, and challenges and barriers and maybe more serious than what was expected or anticipated.”
Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, however, thinks there are still missing links.
“We don’t understand the people who are most vulnerable, we, the county at large, they don’t understand what it would take to get these individuals housed, and then they go out and govern by press release,” Meieran said.
Meieran is skeptical that the program can work until there is better support for substance use disorders. She says these people specifically need sobering centers and recovery housing.
“We need places for people to go that meet the level of need and provide the services these individuals are experiencing,” she said.