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Portland and Multnomah County Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness 2009/12/09

Posted by kiaball in Land and Community Development.

In recent years Portland and Multnomah County, Oregon has increasingly been recognized for its efforts in addressing the issue of homelessness in its community. In 2004, the region embarked upon an ambitious goal of, not reducing, but ending homelessness by 2015. Culminating into Home Again: A 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, the plan is built on three principles: (1) focus on the most chronically homeless populations, (2) streamline access to existing services to prevent and reduce other types of homelessness, and (3) concentrate its resources on programs that offer measurable results. In the five years since its adoption, the plan has made some important strides. For example, the 2009 Mid-Year Report, Portland and Multnomah County reported that 1,913 previously homeless families were housed, 2,191 chronically homeless individuals were able to move into housing, and 1,388 permanent supportive housing units have opened or are being developed (see www.portlandonline.com, 10 Year Plan 2009 Mid-Year Report for more details).

The Portland and Multnomah County Citizens Commission on Homelessness engaged in what appears to have been an organized, cohesive, and successful process for developing the plan. It seems that genuine public involvement was a defining characteristic of the planning process. First, the Citizen’s Commission conducted regular meetings with community members, agency and local government representatives, and current and formerly homeless individuals. The fact that the process involved members of the homeless community was most striking to me. While it does make sense that those living under the conditions that the region seeks to eradicate would offer significant insight to the success of the program, this seems like a very unique characteristic of the process. The Plan to End Homelessness Coordinating Committee was then formed to organize efforts between non-profit agencies and interested members of the community. The Homeless Work Group, Sponsored Southeast Uplift, a Portland-based neighborhood revitalization organization, then put together a series of comprehensive forums to discuss the neighborhood involvement aspect of the plan.

The Ten-Year Plan operates on nine strategies. These include: (1) moving people and families into “Housing First” (to be discussed further), (2) stop discharging people into homelessness (including jails and hospitals), (3) improve homeless outreach, (4) promote permanent housing options, (5) increase number of permanent supportive housing units, (6) seek innovative partnerships, (7) increase the effectiveness of the current rental assistance system, (8) increase economic opportunities available to homeless people, and (9) implementing their new Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), a new web-based data collection and research system.

What seems to be their top priority is the Housing First strategy. Promoted by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Housing First focuses on placing homeless individuals and families first and ensuring that supportive services are provided in addition to their housing. The Portland Housing Bureau partners with the Bridges to Housing organization to provide permanent supportive and affordable housing. Services that are provided include case management, access to mental and physical health care, and substance abuse treatment (for further information see http://www.bridgestohousing.org). One example of the Housing First approach is the newly developed apartment complex, The Morrison. This is a subsidized housing development located near downtown Portland. Ninety-five of the 140 units are below market, and forty-five of the units are offered at even lower rents for the chronically homeless. The apartment complex is also located near upscale condos, and appeals to low-income earners, such as recent college graduates, who may not have been the target renters. Such a development has proven quite controversial in Portland as some are concerned that their tax dollars are not going to the targeted population, and others concerned that property values may decrease because of the type of housing the Morrison represents (see Peter Korn article The Morrison Mix on http://www.portlandtribune.com, March 21, 2008).

It could be argued that the plan is thus far successful in its goal of placing the chronically homeless into permanent housing because a more progressive approach has been taking to tackling homelessness. But, it does not come without controversy. Because the plan is only in its fifth year, it may be somewhat difficult to predict the long term effects of Portland and Multnomah County’s approach. However, it does represent a dedicated and strategic effort by local government which could possibly serve as a model to other local government entities seeking solutions.

For further information:


Citizens Commission on Homelessness. (December 2004). Home Again: A 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. City of Portland , Portland Housing Bureau, Portland.

Korn, P. (2008, March 21). The Morrison Mix: City’s Housing Experiment Puts Low Earners Next to Ex-Homeless, Upscale Condos. Retrieved December 9, 2009, from Portland Tribune: http://www.portlandtribune.com



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