November 7, 2012

Right now, thousands of people in our county are experiencing homelessness. And different from the past, a growing number of those who are homeless are families with children. As our mission is to serve our most vulnerable residents, Multnomah County is responding to this growing crisis by providing emergency shelter to families and children and assistance in getting them on the path to self-sufficiency.   

On Thursday, Nov. 1, families seeking emergency shelter found a warm, safe place to sleep on the opening night of Human Solutions’ Family Winter Shelter at the Parkrose Community United Church of Christ in Northeast Portland.  This emergency shelter is part of a system of day and night shelter, funded by the county. Our goal is that no family will be turned away this winter.

Last winter, the Family Winter Shelter served a record 181 homeless families consisting of 555 people, including 288 children.  

Prior to the winter shelter opening last Thursday, 60 families were on the waiting list for shelter. Now there are more than 70. To respond, my fellow commissioners and I approved funding for two housing placement specialists who are already working hard to get families off the street and into housing, bypassing the shelter system whenever possible. They’re also working with affected families to address their long-term housing stability.

While we’re doing our best to partner with non-profit organizations and faith partners to address this issue, there is plenty that you can do to help the families and children in Multnomah County who are experiencing homelessness.

Here’s how you can help:

The Family Winter Shelter is open until at least March 30, 2013, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. at the Parkrose Community United Church of Christ, 12505 N.E. Halsey St. in Portland.

Please donate new or clean gently-used:

  • blankets
  • pillows
  • packaged food (like cereal) and fruit (like apples, bananas, oranges)
  • bus tickets
  • disposable plates, cups, bowls and utensils
  • hygiene products including toothpaste, toothbrushes and diapers

Volunteer to bring dinner to the shelter, help with evening activities or other volunteer activities. To donate or volunteer, visit Human Solutions' website or contact Amie Diffenauer at 503-841-1728 or

A special thanks is due to all the members of the Family Shelter-to-Housing Partnership. Multnomah County is proud to be a part of this unique collaboration that includes Human Solutions, Portland Homeless Family Solutions, our Department of County Human Services, 211info, First United Methodist Church, the New City Initiative, First Unitarian Church, Join, Sunnyside Centenary United Methodist Church, Parkrose Community United Church of Christ, and Highland United Church of Christ.