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Commissioners keep those at risk for homelessness afloat until accord reached with regional government

COURTESY PHOTO - Johnson Creek, which runs through Milwaukie, recently fell victim to a propane fire set by illegal campers.Four supportive housing services (SHS) previously at risk of being discontinued after July 1 are being kept afloat by Clackamas County funds while county commissioners work out an agreement with the Metro Council for a $3 million funding advance.

Last year Metro voters passed a business and personal income tax to raise money for SHS. On May 18, the county was alerted of five total housing services at risk of being defunded or discontinued due to a delay in anticipated SHS tax receipts. Four of the five at-risk services ran out of previous funding on July 1, so the county board had to get creative to fill the funding gap.

At a policy meeting on June 29, County Commissioners Paul Savas and Martha Schrader presented a suggestion to request a $3 million advance from Metro in order to move forward with affordable housing projects and to ensure the four housing services could continue uninterrupted.

The suggestion was approved 5-0, yet no agreement has been reached since, per spokespeople from both the county and Metro.

A county spokesperson said the board has approved the use of county funds to fill the gap until the agreement is reached for the $3 million advance, which the board plans to use toward the at-risk services as well as other housing services that they are still deciding upon.

There is no timeline for the agreement's completion, the county spokesperson added, but the board does have a short-term revenue sharing agreement with Metro from July 1 until Oct. 1, in which Metro gives the county 21.3% of program funds collected from income taxes.

The four programs whose previous funding ended July 1 include a shelter modeled after a hotel, which provides 143 household units and could only remain open until June 30 with current funding, per the official policy worksheet.

Another is the Emergency Solutions Grants Rapid Rehousing program to transition 50 households from non-permanent shelters to permanent housing, which was federally funded through COVID-response dollars.

Next is the Serenity House & Haven House (Corrections Program), which provides housing for 19 people with mental illnesses who are at either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless post-incarceration. The house lost funding in fiscal year 2019-20 and has relied on a "patchwork of funding sources" through health housing and human services to remain funded until July 1.

Also at risk is Veterans Village, a shelter program providing beds for 19 homeless veterans, which was funded through the Clackamas County's general fund.

Finally, Metro 300, which houses 104 formerly homeless participants in the county, is set to run out of current funding in August.

County commissioners released a joint statement in June, emphasizing their commitment to providing housing for those in need, adding that they needed to increase their investment in SHS to effectively address the issue.

"Clackamas County has a great need for housing and services," the commissioners wrote. "For far too long, the need outweighed our investments. If we continue to invest in housing at current levels with local, state and federal funds, it will take 22 years to move all of our residents off the waitlist and into supportive housing."


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