‘The need has been extraordinary’: Portland funds $18M for homeless


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland’s Blanchet House is hopeful that funding in the fall supplemental budget, approved by city council Wednesday, will help the fight against the homeless crisis.

At the Blanchet House, volunteers serve up hot meals to those in need six days a week.

“The need has really been extraordinary. We are serving about 1,000 meals a day,” Scott Kerman, executive director of Blanchet House, said.

With the arrival of cold weather, volunteers are now also handing out boots, socks and warm clothing along with care packages.

Kerman said he was excited to learn that both the city and county have now budgeted around $19 million each in surplus money to combat homelessness.

The need for some immediate relief is extraordinary. The suffering we are seeing is escalating as this pandemic wears on,” Kerman said.

Some of that relief will come in the addition of hundreds of new shelter beds that could be coming online in the next few weeks and months.

“We are looking at a couple motel sites, we are looking at some congregate sites, sites out in Southeast Portland, East County, other parts of downtown just to really sort of bring some depth out to where things are, and its 400 – 500 beds,” Multnomah County communications coordinator Denis Theriault said.

Theriault said the new 400-500 beds will compliment other projects already in the works — bumping up the potential total number of newer shelter beds to close to 1,000.  

Theriault also works closely with the Joint Office of Homeless Services, and noted that the surplus money will be in addition to the money that supportive housing services funds will be putting into shelters.

“So if you take 400-500 from this funding, if you add the 300 plus beds from the Safe Rest Villages, plus the beds we are going to keep going permanently from the COVID shelters that we opened — because we opened several shelters just to maintain shelter capacity over the past couple years — all of that is going to be 800-900 beds, maybe even more,” Theriault said.

Theriault said the new motel rooms could provide the most immediate impact for those now left out in the cold.

“We are in negotiations with some property owners already and have been and I think those could turn over pretty quickly,” Theriault said.

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