Community Responsiveness To Homelessness

Community Responsiveness To Homelessness

According to the latest data, there are approximately 4,177 individuals experiencing homeless on any given night in Multnomah County. 16% of these individuals are part of households with children, and 11% are veterans. Despite these unfortunate numbers, over the last few years, the local government in Portland has successfully increased the proportion of these individuals staying in shelters, instead of on the streets. While Portland’s community-based response to the local homelessness situation has been helpful in some ways, there is still so much more we can do to help create affordable permanent housing solutions in our community.

Here in Portland, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness has increased over the last few years. However, the various counties throughout Oregon have been working together to develop comprehensive solutions to combat this growing problem. While providing shelter is a component of these plans, the big picture focuses on homelessness prevention, social services and affordable housing. In order for these solutions to be effective, the city of Portland must work with the state and federal governments, as well as organizations in the private sector, nonprofits, faith-based communities, etc.

When it comes to Portland’s response to crisis intervention among the homeless population, Street Roots recommends using a response team that works on the streets to “alleviate the drain on police resources and serve as an appropriate and compassionate response to street homelessness.” The main goal of this initiative would be to reduce the overall number of police responses to calls involving the homeless. To achieve this, Street Roots recommends using six teams of two people (one firefighter-EMT and one peer support specialist) operating mobile response vans 24/7 across the Metro Portland area.

According to Street Roots, these teams would respond to calls related to fires in camp or tent communities, non-life-threatening medical calls on the streets, and a variety of other low priority calls requesting police services. The peer support specialist would work with individuals with mental health or addiction issues, and have a working knowledge of how to connect people with programs that initiate services. The primary goal here would be to “establish trust in the homeless community and give teams the opportunity to initially engage with some folks outside the context of a crisis.”

By investing in this effort, or another similar community-based approach, Portland’s local government can actually save money. If these types of programs are given the funding they need to be effective, there would be fewer arrests, and the drain on police resources would be significantly reduced. For more information on Portland’s current street response resources, and a more in-depth look at what Street Roots recommends, click here.

JOIN works in the Portland Metro community to provide permanent sustainable housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. If you’d like to help us continue our efforts to make Portland a better place to live for everyone, consider contributing to our cause today.