Opinion: A plan to speed up assistance to the homeless

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Susheela Jayapal, Michael Liu and Brandi Tuck

Jayapal is the Multnomah County Commissioner for District 2. Liu is Chair of the Executive Committee on Government Relations of the Portland Business Alliance and CFO of the Fubonn Mall. Tuck is the CEO of Portland Homeless Family Solutions. They are all members of the HereTogether coalition of nonprofit organizations for homeless services, elected officials, businesses and other government agencies.

It’s no surprise that people in our region say tackling homelessness should be our top priority. Homelessness is a visible crisis that we see in our neighborhoods every day. Many of us know someone who has been living on the streets or is just a missed paycheck from losing their home.

Voters have made it clear that they care deeply about helping our neighbors transition indoors and stay at home by approving historic funding to deal with this crisis. The pandemic has greatly exacerbated housing insecurity and homelessness, making progress difficult to see – but we are indeed making progress.

However, the scale of the crisis demands that we keep pushing to do better and do more – and fast. We need to take a clear look at obstacles such as underfunding and understaffing at all levels – from street teams to housing voucher distribution efforts – and overly complicated and slow processes. No matter what progress we’ve made, we can’t ignore the fact that there is still trash to be collected across the city and far too many of our neighbors are going through the coldest months of the year without a safe. stable place to live.

The only way to overcome these obstacles is through cooperation and determination. Last week, the HereTogether Coalition released its “2022 Roadmap” to accelerate aid to our homeless neighbors by outlining programs and opportunities that should be prioritized now to bring more people indoors in the shortest amount of time. Between voting efforts, local and regional funding, and a large infusion of federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act, we have more financial resources than ever to get the job done. This document is an expert-backed guide to achieving the short-term impact of our work and investments over the coming months and throughout this year, without jeopardizing critical resources for long-term, enduring solutions.

The 2022 Roadmap has been endorsed by over 190 companies, organizations, elected and community leaders ready to put this plan into action. It includes a mix of existing initiatives currently ongoing or about to start that should continue to be prioritized: acquiring hotels or motels for housing conversions, expanding street teams, and expanding programs that provide hygiene and sanitation services with training and employment opportunities for workers connect homeless people.

The roadmap also highlights recent opportunities to open more transitional and permanent housing in less time, including: renting to responsible agencies, which then sublet spaces to people emerging from homelessness; Launch of the regional long-term rental support program to develop ready-to-occupy housing in the private sector; Working with commercial real estate owners to convert unused office space into housing; and promoting highly affordable solutions like home sharing. Perhaps most importantly, the priorities in this document call for greater collaboration and transparency around these programs by improving data collection and coordination between agencies.

As debate and community-wide calls for solutions continue, some are suggesting a nostalgic vision of Portland’s past. We reject this notion – because with the supposed successes of the past we also saw solutions riddled with failures to provide adequate services and equal opportunities for all to secure and affordable housing. The burdens of our failures weigh most heavily on communities of color. We should use the lessons of the past and move in a better direction.

We can solve the intricate challenges of our housing crisis with a community-based, values-driven approach that brings together everyone: elected officials, service providers, businesses, and the voices of those directly affected by homelessness. That means as we open more shelters and transitional shelters, we make sure those programs move people into permanent shelters. Shelter alone is not the answer, and we need to make sure that while investing in temporary measures, we don’t underfund the permanent solutions needed to house people – and help them stay housed permanently.

We don’t solve complex problems by sowing fear and frustration. The only way we can solve them is by bringing people together, listening to the experts who work on the front lines, and working on proven solutions to meet our needs now and for years to come.

If you would like to join us in supporting accelerated assistance to our homeless neighbors and to learn more about the 2022 Roadmap, visit: bit.ly/HT2022Roadmap or www.heretogetheroregon.org.

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