PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Residents of a transitional housing complex are facing a mass eviction after rental assistance funding has ended from the State of Oregon. Many people relied on emergency rental assistance, a program that ended in the summer, and the funding along with it is drying up.
Several people involved with housing and homelessness told KOIN 6 they’re worried about a huge increase in homelessness without that money.
Dan Hagan has lived at Argyle Gardens for a year and a half. When he first moved from a shelter into the transitional home, he was working at the Salvation Army but has since lost his job, so he was relying on Oregon’s emergency rental assistance program to make his rent.
On Friday, he was one of 31 people to receive a non-payment eviction in the complex and he says for him that means he’s going right back into a shelter starting this whole process over.
“It seems like a break in the system,” Hagan said. “This is the perfect example of what shouldn’t be happening.”
Hagan had just started an I.T. job training program to find more stable employment, but without housing, he doesn’t know if he will be able to complete the online program.
“I’m doing what I should be doing,” Hagan said. “I’m doing what they tell you to do and I’m getting this training, I’m going to move on, be able to move out of here and to be told that you’re not doing it good enough and because you’re not doing it good enough you have to go out on the streets.”
Transition projects place residents in complexes like Argyle Gardens. They told KOIN 6 they will work to ensure no one is evicted but they see a bigger problem.
In a statement to KOIN 6, the organization’s director of policy and financing Tony Bernal says that this is an example of an “urgent need for additional statewide emergency rental assistance resources to help people maintain their housing.”
Bernal urges the state to reopen emergency rental assistance which is currently paused.
“As rent assistance is drying up and going away, people are without options and so the risk of eviction is going to go through the roof,” said Sybil Hebb, the director of legislative and policy advocacy with the Oregon Law Center.
Hebb says increases in rent and evictions are two factors that are driving homelessness. She worries about two other programs currently in effect in Oregon that will accentuate evictions like Hagan’s and fuel the state’s ongoing homeless crisis — Safe Harbor protections, which prevent evictions for someone who has applied for rental assistance, and a prolonged eviction timeline that slowed down the process of court process of evictions during the pandemic.
“We will be in a space with less rent assistance and faster eviction timelines, meaning people will have less access to help, less chance of saving themselves from displacement if we don’t act,” Hebb said.
Hebb advocates for reexamination of Oregon’s rent stabilization law as well as the longer eviction timeline to curb homelessness from people losing their homes.
Oregon spent over $390 million in rental assistance during the pandemic, one of the leading states to provide assistance, according to National Low Income Housing Center.
It is unclear how much transition project plans to spend to keep people housed at Argyle Gardens, but Hebb is confident that it’s less than those people starting the process over if they get kicked out.
“Prevention is not only a more humane solution but is cheaper. We know that to be the case in many contexts and it holds true in the case of homelessness and eviction protection,” he said.