Updated March 24, 2020

To help protect our most vulnerable neighbors amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Multnomah County is working with partners in local government and across the community to open urgently needed shelter space in public buildings and motel/hotel settings that would otherwise go unused.

To support that work, Multnomah County is seeking to hire temporary employees to work in a range of shelter and motel settings over the coming weeks. 

These new spaces, which have been approved by public health officials, are vitally important. They will help us reduce density across our shelter system, meaning we can maintain the bed counts that help almost 1,000 adults every night while also ensuring all of our shelters can comply with physical distancing guidance. 

Without these spaces, shelter providers have had to limit intakes as they worked to create safe physical distancing. 

All shelter sites are in compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shelter guidance for protecting the health of residents and employees, and have been inspected by Multnomah County Health Department officials. 

We are seeking people to fill a range of positions, including entry-level shelter workers, leads, managers. We’re also seeking individuals with specialized behavioral health skills. 

Positions start immediately with different shift options available. Applicants with experience in human services, social work, healthcare, homeless services, other related fields, and/or proficiency in languages other than English are particularly encouraged to apply.

Please indicate your interest by submitting your resume, contact information, and available start date to shelterjobs@multco.us. You can also send any questions to shelterjobs@multco.us.

Where can I find the job listing?

You can find a link to the listing at Craigslist, Partners in Diversity or Indeed. Please share it with anyone who you think might be interested.

Can you tell me more about what’s happening with these new shelters?

We’re opening these new spaces so we can spread out the nearly 1,000 beds we operate for adults in Multnomah County 24 hours a day all year — and reduce density in our shelter system. These beds don’t add new capacity; they will largely be filled by people who are already in other shelters.

That means we can create safer shelter spaces for vulnerable community members and better follow physical distancing guidelines issued by Public Health.  

We also hope a spread-out system will let us return to a more normal rate of shelter intakes. For weeks, providers have had to limit intakes in our current shelters. They have had to gradually bring bed counts down so they could rearrange their sleeping rooms and common areas for physical distancing.

All of the beds in our system will continue to be accessed by reservation only; no beds will be available for those just walking up or being dropped off. This includes anyone discharged from a medical setting. Medical settings and hospitals must ensure someone has a bed and may not send someone to a shelter without first obtaining a reservation.

Who will the shelters serve?

Physical-distancing shelter for people without new symptoms:

The majority of the beds that are opening, including all of the beds at the Oregon Convention Center and Charles Jordan Convention Center, will serve adults who are already accessing shelter services and who are not showing respiratory symptoms and who have not tested positive for COVID-19. We have been thinking of these spaces as “physical-distancing shelters” that will allow us to provide sufficient spacing for guests in compliance with Public Health guidance. 

Staff and guests are required to follow distancing and hygiene guidelines. Sites will also be cleaned/sanitized regularly. Guests must be referred in by shelter providers and will be screened for symptoms before they can enter. If guests begin showing symptoms, they will be assessed for transfer to a motel.

Motel-based sites for the medically vulnerable:

We are also looking to hire staff to help at motel-based settings that will serve people who are more medically vulnerable. Some of the folks staying there may have COVID-19 symptoms, or may be recovering from confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Motel sites will provide limited medical support for vulnerable populations, isolation for people who do not require significant social support services, and step-down medical care for people who no longer require hospitalization to maximize available space in congregate shelters and regional medical facilities

At these sites, only medical and health staff would be expected to come into direct contact with symptomatic individuals. Appropriate personal protective equipment would be provided to staff directly interacting with sick individuals at the medical shelter.

What would the work look like?

We’re asking for shelter staff who can commit to active work, including light lifting and movement. You’ll also need to be able to follow and practice physical distancing, while still providing comfort and care to shelter guests.

Tasks include helping set up and clean dormitory and food service areas. You might also be asked to use any special skills you bring to the work, if applicable, such as basic first aid, conflict management, or counseling.

At this point in the pandemic, however, Public Health officials say anyone 65 or older with medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to a severe COVID-19 illness should avoid positions with face-to-face public contact. The positions in our shelters all have interaction with others, although distancing is maintained. They would be preferable for people who are not vulnerable to more severe disease.

Why are you asking the public to participate?

We’re asking, quite simply, because we need your help.

County employees helped launch and will continue to work at these shelters to the extent they can. Even our elected officials have taken part, assembling cots and taking shifts serving meals.

And staff from our nonprofit partners, the experts who’ve helped us transform and grow our shelter system over the past five years, are also working with them around the clock.

But this is an urgent time and we can’t keep this service going on our own. We need to move quickly and at a dramatic scale to keep people healthy and save lives. 

It would be irresponsible if we didn’t reach out to everyone else in the community who would be willing to help, if only someone would ask them and show them how they can.

Our entire community will be sharing this work together for a long time, and we need as large a pool of caring, committed workers as possible to ensure we can rise to this challenge day after day. 

Is this work allowed now that the state has issued a stay home order?

Multnomah County considers social and human services, including sheltering services, an essential activity and an essential line of business — ensuring that important work to help thousands of people experiencing homelessness, housing insecurity and food insecurity can continue as needed.

Staff and guests will all be required to follow physical distancing and hygiene guidelines provided by Public Health. Sites will also be cleaned and sanitized regularly in accordance with Public Health guidelines.

But even if this work is essential, doesn’t recruiting people conflict with guidance around staying home and maintaining physical distance? 

It may seem that way, but it doesn’t. 

The goal of physical distancing, and the goal of stay-home guidance, is to reduce the extent and rate of spread of COVID-19 — particularly for those among us who face the highest risk of severe or fatal symptoms. 

Ensuring we can spread our shelter system out to practice physical distancing — finding the right spaces and finding the right staff to operate them — is essential for limiting the spread of this illness to or among some of the most vulnerable neighbors in our community.

That’s why we must continue to work safely and directly with people who need assistance meeting their basic housing, social services and healthcare needs. To do that work, we are relying on the addition of temporary employees — provided that those workers are not also in the high-risk category, are not also caring for someone in the high-risk category, and take appropriate precautions related to maintaining distance, proper hygiene, sanitation, and, where necessary, using personal protective equipment.

Having the vast majority of people staying home makes it that much safer for those of us who do essential work with the public caring for others.

And failing to provide those services would mean increasing the overall risk of the disease to the general population by failing to help people access appropriately spaced sleeping quarters, needed hygiene and sanitation, medical monitoring, and health care.

What if I can only commit to helping for a shorter amount of time?

We also need help from volunteers who are willing to commit to shorter-term work and would love your help. Please use this volunteer interest form to get connected with the right opportunity.