What Portland has done so far to address the 'housing emergency'

The city of Portland set specific goals to help Portland residents when it declared a State of Emergency for housing and homelessness in September. Here's a progress report.  

Downtown homeless shelter to open this month None

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PORTLAND, Ore. – The city is making progress on addressing Portland’s housing emergency, but in some areas it’s falling short.

In September, Portland and Multnomah County announced a State of Emergency to help the city’s homeless populations as well as those being priced out of the city.

When the emergency was announced, city officials committed millions to fund initiatives to help.

The mayor’s office updated KGW on the city’s progress.

Note: Staff at Commissioner Dan Saltzman's office said they could not speak to any specific goals of the State of Emergency plan. Saltzman oversees Portland's housing bureau. 

Inside Portland's emergency shelter for families

GOAL: Commit $20 million from the city to invest in housing and homelessness.
REALITY: The city has dedicated $10 million to the state of emergency's housing and homelessness goals and is working to commit another $10 million, according to the mayor’s spokeswoman, Sara Hottman.

GOAL: Create 650 shelter spaces for women, children and people with disabilities.
REALITY: The city opened a temporary shelter for 150 women and couples at the Sears Army Reserve Center on Multnomah Boulevard. Lead dust was found in the shelter, according to an Oregonian report. The dust was removed after the report was published. 

The shelter is at capacity every night, but it’s only housing a little more than a quarter of the city’s homeless women, Hottman said. A recent count of the city’s homeless identified 566 unsheltered women.

Downtown homeless shelter to open this month

GOAL: Help prevent eviction and keep more than 1,000 families from becoming homeless
REALITY: The mayor’s office could not define any specific actions taken to prevent eviction. Commissioner Saltzman's office declined to comment. 

No place to call home: Facing homelessness in Portland 

GOAL: Provide storage lockers for homeless people
REALITY: One crate is scheduled to be installed Jan. 19 under the west side of the Steel Bridge, according to Hottman, but it’s three months after the city said it would first make the lockers available to the homeless.

A second crate will be installed near the Hazelnut Grove camp in the Overlook neighborhood but a date has not yet been set for that opening.

In the meantime, homeless people in downtown Portland told KGW they have to find creative solutions to keep their belongings. Some work in pairs, so one person can go to an appointment while another keeps an eye on their stuff. Some ask friends who have temporary housing to keep their possessions safe.

Others even use the metal grates in the sidewalks in downtown Portland as temporary storage lockers.

A cleaning company called Clean & Safe periodically cleans the grates and throws away the belongings as part of a clean-up effort funded by local businesses.

When the storage spaces are installed, they will fit belongings and shopping carts. One will be 240 feet long and the other will be 250 feet long.

Other: The city started a high-intensity street engagement program for those with the highest barrier to service. It’s also opening another shelter for 100 men and creating a “one point of contact” system for complaints about livability issues associated with homelessness, Hottman said.

Mayor Hales is nearing the end of his first term in office. He is not running for re-election in part because he wanted to focus on Portland's housing and homelessness issues. 

Published Jan. 11, 2016

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