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Housing and Homelessness

Portland faces a growing homeless crisis. Incremental steps addressing homelessness and the equivalent of band-aids and duct tape are failing to get the job done. Sam’s plan will match the scale of our crisis with comprehensive, big solutions, and structural change that will apply accountability and research to invest in solutions that work. Portland will provide a model to inspire cities around the country on how to follow suit and truly address our nation’s homelessness crisis. Sam’s plan is to:

1. Build and Expand Shelter and Housing Options

Implement Nick Fish’s plan to create 2,000 Permanent Supportive Housing Units. Our most vulnerable, chronic homeless populations can get off and stay off the street when they have housing with ‘wrap-around’ services like case management, mental health support, and addiction treatment.  

Some of this can be accomplished through approval of the May Metro Homeless Services measure. The remainder will be incumbent upon using existing and future resources to make these critical housing options available throughout Portland and the region. 

Add 5,000 homeless shelter beds throughout the region. Smaller shelters throughout Portland and the region—not gigantic overcrowded shelters that overwhelm residents and neighborhoods—will include services to ensure residents are successful in transitioning to long-term housing and support services that will keep them out of homelessness.

Prioritize access for those with the greatest need. Affordable housing is a precious and unfortunately limited resource. Until we meet Sam’s goal of affordable housing for all, ensuring that the resources we have are serving those with the greatest need means getting the most out of what we have. Sam will implement a system that helps populations find the right housing to match their needs.

Increase the supply of affordable housing. Portland’s population growth outpaces its housing production every year—making the crisis even worse year after year.  While Sam’s plan calls for historic and unprecedented investments to match the scale of our homeless crisis, we can’t subsidize our way out of Portland’s housing crisis. 

Sam will implement strategies to encourage affordable well-designed housing types.  Sam will champion well-planned housing along transportation corridors, in commercial areas where infrastructure already exists – like the Lloyd District, through the Albina Vision, and other areas where impacts to existing neighborhoods will be modest.  

Implement Sam’s Fair Share Housing and Homelessness Plan by supporting the region's cities and counties to build shelter, affordable housing and homelessness in every community throughout our region. Portland cannot fund the region’s homeless crisis alone. Portland’s homeless populations reflect our region’s population.

2. Expand Services and Implement Efficiently to Maximize Reach and Impact

Homeless services – Sam will champion investments in services that have high success rates in helping people get and stay out of homelessness such as case management, mental health support, addiction treatment, job training and other services connected to housing. 

Partnerships with the healthcare and service providers must be scaled up by investing in pilot projects and other programs that have the best proven outcomes.

Sanctioned camping – Like Dignity Village and R2D2 that create safe, self-regulated environments that have low impacts on neighborhoods and their surrounding communities. These types of safe, legal encampments also allow access for case workers, law enforcement, and specialists to access vulnerable populations and work toward shelter and treatment solutions. 

Livability and Transition to Shelter – Sam will work to expand programs to reach out and engage people camping and living outside, helping direct them to available shelter and needed services. These programs also provide an opportunity to engage people in understanding how to be good neighbors by keeping camp areas clean and community minded.

Let culturally specific communities take the lead – Communities of color are disproportionately affected by homelessness – particularly Black and Native American populations. Sam will set aside program resources to invest in non-profit and other service providers to identify and implement programs that specifically lead with race as a determining factor on how to deliver services. 

Portland Street Response – Sam has endorsed and will expand this program which sends medics and peer specialists to people living on the street with conditions such as mental illness and substance use disorder.  That minimizes conflicts where the police are the first responders and establishes a better all around relationship for everyone.

3. Invest in Intervention and Jobs Programs to Reduce Risk of Homelessness

Prevention Services – Keeping people out of homelessness is by far the most cost effective strategy.  Case management, support in finding services, and short-term rent assistance make sound, cost effective investments.  

Early Intervention and Treatment First – We know that when factors that contribute to housing instability and are identified and mitigated early, lives are spared disruption, and we can break the cycles that too often lead to addiction, worsening mental health crises, criminality and other consequences of homelessness. 

Working with school counselors to provide training and tools to reach vulnerable youth, employers to better recognize the needs of low wage employees, and culturally specific organizations to serve populations too often at the margins of policy making and outreach, we can help people before they fall into homelessness. 

Living Wage Jobs – help transition people out of homelessness and support services to achieve self-sufficiency. In turn, workers contribute to the tax base to support continued services for others. 

Sam will ensure people living with homelessness or on the verge of homelessness are able to access job training services through effective non-profit, community college, and government workforce programs. Construction, healthcare, and other sectors face a dearth of qualified and trained workers. When people find a path to sustained economic success, we all win.

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