December 21, 2017

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury at the Human Solutions Family Center.
Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday called on Oregon lawmakers to approve an additional $5 million in emergency funding for homeless family shelters across the state, to help them weather a surging need.

Gov. Brown made her announcement after touring Multnomah County’s largest shelter for families experiencing homelessness, the Human Solutions family shelter in East Portland, with County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Oregon Housing and Community Services director Margaret Salazar.

“The families here today are struggling to make ends meet and trying to live normal lives under difficult circumstances,” said Gov. Brown. “It’s critical to support them. We have aligned the state, county, and city to ensure that everyone has a warm place to go this winter. However, given the difficulties of the upcoming winter months and resources stretched thin, this $5 million is key to getting children and families off the streets and providing them with sustainable and high-quality shelters."

The funds would be available statewide to maintain shelter capacity, house families during their transitions into permanent housing, assist in housing placement and retention, and provide winter shelter across the state.

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Gov. Kate Brown at the Human Solutions Family Center.
The state has seen an overall rise in homelessness at a pace that has outstripped even new programs and investments designed to address the crisis in recent years. This year, record numbers of families have sought shelter in Multnomah County, and some facilities have had to begin turning away families and children. State, county and city resources are stretched to their capacity to ensure that children and families have a warm and safe place to sleep this winter.  

“I don't ever want to see a crib in a shelter. I don't want kids in shelters, period. Kids need homes. That is why we are all here today,” Chair Kafoury said. “Today, Multnomah County, the city of Portland and the state are working together like never before. But the need is greater than we have seen before. The new resources that the governor is calling for will enable us to keep up our commitments to our most vulnerable this winter.”

After averaging 220 kids and parents in its main shelter and overflow spaces last spring, Human Solutions saw its count top 300 people for the first time in August and then approach 500 people this fall.

That surge in need is partly driven by families who’ve been priced out of their homes because of rent increases. But it’s also taking longer for families in shelter to find affordable and available homes. Some families, even when they have the incomes or support services they need to thrive in permanent housing, have to stay in shelter for months.

The average stay for a family at Human Solutions main shelter is now 65 days, nearly three times longer than it was just three years ago.

Gov. Kate Brown carts in donations at the Human Solutions Family Center.
And this year, after nearly two years of providing no-turn-away space for any family in need, Human Solutions has had to put families on a waiting list. Since then, Multnomah County and Portland have launched a Home for the Holidays campaign to help move families out of shelter and into permanent housing, while working with Congregation Beth Israel in Northwest Portland to open a winter shelter for families in need.

IF YOU WANT TO HELP

Volunteer or donate to Human Solutions this winter: Human Solutions welcomes volunteer participation and donations to help manage its year-round and severe weather shelters — particularly blankets and pillows. Go to humansolutions.org/helping to learn more. And anyone interested in helping to serve or prepare meals can email cnewcomb@humansolutions.org.

Give families a Home for the Holidays: Landlords can contribute available units to Multnomah County’s Home for the Holidays campaign, which is working to house 40 families out of shelter by Jan. 15. With a few weeks to go, some 36 families have already been housed. Go to humansolutions.org/home-for-the-holidays to learn how you can help providers not only meet but exceed that goal.

Prepare for severe weather: To learn how and where to donate specific items of winter gear, or to volunteer at a warming center this winter, go to 211info.org/donations. The more gear received before severe weather, the more time providers will have to save lives once the weather turns dangerous.