Commissioner: Clackamas County seeing results of housing measure
Recently there has been news about how different counties have spent the supportive housing services funding raised by Metro's regional tax, including in Clackamas County. By taking an entirely "Metro-centric" view, however, they missed — and mischaracterized — the broader approach and efforts we are taking as a county on housing and homelessness.
One of the things we are proud of in Clackamas County is being fiscally responsible and accountable. One part of that is not spending money we don't yet have, which is why we have waited for the tax revenues to be collected before we spent them. Does that mean we have ignored the crisis on our streets and our community in the interim? Absolutely not. During the last year, while we waited for the funds to come, we leveraged the unprecedented resources we received due to the pandemic and allocated our American Rescue Plan resources to shelter our most vulnerable residents. We used foundation dollars, COVID relief dollars, federal emergency management assistance dollars and our own general fund. We placed people in hotels temporarily, and then we provided the navigation and wraparound services to get them stably housed. That resulted in phenomenal outcomes for the people of Clackamas County.
With the resources we had, we sheltered 261 people in just a year and a half. At the very end of the fiscal year when the money for supportive housing services finally came in, we were able to house 170 individuals with rent assistance and services from the Metro dollars. And we now have the foundation and the infrastructure built to end prolonged homelessness. We were thoughtful, compassionate, responsible and effective, and our staff and nonprofit providers were heroic.
But those are just numbers. You can't know what's happening with numbers. Thoughtful politicians should know that. Let's look at Tom. He had been unsheltered for 10 years after a financial crisis due to a divorce. His ability to cope had deteriorated due to the harsh reality of living outside. Within his heart, he didn't feel like he could ask for help because there wasn't any housing assistance available for the 10 years he had lived outside. Our outreach team built trust with Tom. He was first placed in the short-term motel shelter program, and from there he worked with our team to get the supports he needed to be housed.
And let's look at Angela, a former foster system-involved youth who was sex trafficked, unsafe and afraid. Through Clackamas Women Services using the dollars we provided, Angela stayed in the motel program until she could safely transition to housing — a market-rate apartment which she now pays for herself with the living wage she is earning.
There are countless stories like this. Metro may be upset at us for practicing fiscal responsibility. But the fact is, our supportive housing services program committed over $11 million in contracts this last year to address homelessness. We found every penny, every resource to address the crisis before us. Metro may be unwilling or unable to see the bigger picture, but the people of Clackamas County know we are working toward our goal of assuring that homelessness is rare, brief and non-reoccurring. Because while we have a long way to go, our residents are seeing the results, every day.
Sonya Fischer is a Clackamas County commissioner seeking reelection in November.
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