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Portland and Multnomah County leaders are offering $3 million for new shelter options.

COUTESY PHOTO: KOIN 6 NEWS - The Joint Office of Homeless Services is looking for alternative shelter providers.Portland and Multnomah County leaders want to expand sanctioned shelter options for the homeless to include a wider range of solutions, such as outdoor villages, safe vehicle parking programs, modular shelters and more.

The city-county Joint Office of Homeless Service began soliciting qualified operators for such alternatives on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Responses to the Request for Programmatic Qualifications — or RFPQ for short — must be submitted by March 9.A PMG special report

Anyone can apply, not just nonprofit organizations.

City Commissioner Dan Ryan is the City Council's liaison to the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services, which is funding the new $3 million program. Although prepared by staff, Ryan said he advocated for program during a series of meetings in recent months with Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, County Commissioner Sharon Meieran and Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Ryan said more safer options are needed urgently to reduce the visibly growing number of homeless people living outdoors in the Portland region.

"We desperately need more and different kinds of shelter options that serve the different kinds of people experiencing houselessness," Ryan said.

"Ending homelessness in Multnomah County has to be a community-wide effort, and we've heard loud and clear that people stand ready to help us in that effort," said Kafoury.

According to the request form, the options would be in addition to the housing-focused response system built by the joint office since 2016. That system includes more than 1,300 year-round, 24-hour shelter beds, permanent housing with supportive services, and new models of street outreach.

The joint office expects up to $1 million of the program's funds will cover ongoing operations costs, while the balance likely will support one-time start-up costs.

"Any proposal that shows an improvement for participants vs. sleeping unsheltered in unsanctioned public spaces will be considered," the proposal request reads.

We strongly urge you to attend an upcoming An online briefing of the RFPQ is currently set for 10 a.m., Feb. 26. To learn more, go here.

The operators are being sought as the Portland City Council is preparing to consider a proposal that would allow a wider range of shelter options in almost all parts of town. The Shelter to Housing Continuum Project is intended to overcome zoning and other restrictions that now limit and slow the siting of new shelters in some parts of town. The 11-member volunteer citizen Planning and Sustainability Commission approved a series of recommendations to increase shelter options in all neighborhoods, including temporary shelters in natural areas, on Jan. 23. The council is expected to consider the recommendations in March.

Ryan previously released a Street to Stability Action Plan calling for an even greater focus on reducing homeless.

"Over the past decade, houselessness has been one of the biggest challenges facing our city. Despite the year-over-year increase in regional investments and incremental improvement in strategies, we have not yet been able to develop solutions that decrease the number of Portlanders who are living unsheltered," reads the four-page memo released in early February.

In the memo, Ryan identified two obstacles to reducing the number of people living outdoors that must be overcome. One is "siloing," where multiple jurisdictions and multiple agencies within governments have different responsibilities for the problem, but don't work together effectively. The other is the lack on real-time data on the homeless population, including accurate current numbers about the numbers of people living outdoors and in shelters at any given time, and what kinds of services each of them needs to secure permanent housing.

To help overcome these obstacles, Ryan has convened a City Council Street to Stability Task Force consisting of representatives from each council office and staff from various city bureaus that deal with the homeless, if only in the course of their other duties. They include the Portland Housing Bureau, Portland Parks & Recreation, the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the Portland Water Bureau.

"We have to stop thinking that ending houselessness is just one bureau's responsibility," Ryan said.

Ryan also is convening a Stakeholder Advisory Committee intended to bring a wide range of people affected by homelessness together, including those with lived experience, community leaders, members of the business community and others.

"Houselessness requires an all-in response," Ryan said.

Commissioner Dan Ryan's Street to Stability Action Plan can be found here.

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