Sleep Safe RV program to close as federal relief funds expire
The expiration of federal coronavirus relief funding has prompted the closure of a Washington County program that provided access to resources for people living in recreational vehicles during the pandemic.
In early October, Washington County created the Sleep Safe RV program to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among homeless individuals, who are considered vulnerable to the disease due to their lack of consistent access to preventative resources.
The program came after the county this summer created Sleep Safe Village, which was a managed camping facility for homeless people at the Wingspan Event & Conference Center, formerly the Washington County Fair Complex.
Sleep Safe Village closed in late November due to several days of harsh weather after serving more than 100 people.
Sleep Safe Village guests were transitioned into the county's winter shelter network, which is providing up to 150 beds at five shelters across the county, the county said.
On county-owned property also near the Wingspan Event & Conference Center, the county later provided a space for people to park RVs, security services and access to hygiene supplies, including handwashing stations and portable restrooms.
Sleep Safe RV hosted more than 60 people while it was open.
The program was made available using funds distributed to the county through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which expires on Wednesday, Dec. 30.
"This program has been extremely successful and we're sorry to see it close for lack of a continuing, sustainable funding source," said Josh Crites, assistant director of housing services for the county. "We're incredibly grateful to our partners at the city of Hillsboro for their assistance throughout the permitting process and other invaluable support to ensure the safety and security of the residents and surrounding community."
A housing outreach navigator with the county's Department of Housing Services plans to meet with Sleep Safe RV guests "to assess their current needs and help connect them with resources and supportive services," the county said in a statement announcing the closure Dec. 18.
It's too early to say whether or not additional funding for state and local governments through new federal coronavirus relief legislation would be able to support another RV program in the future, a county spokeswoman said. President Donald Trump signed the new legislation into law Sunday, Dec. 27.
About 1,000 people are estimated to be living in Washington County without a permanent address, according to a fall 2019 report by the county. The report stated about 5,300 were considered at imminent risk of becoming homeless based on economic factors.
The impacts of the pandemic are expected to increase the number of people who are homeless and those who are at risk of homelessness.
Housing experts expect homelessness to increase when eviction moratoriums expire, as previous months' rent will come due even as many tenants continue to deal with losses of income.
On Dec. 21, the Oregon State Legislature passed House Bill 4401, which extends an eviction moratorium until June 30, 2021. The bill also provides $150 million to a landlord relief fund and $50 million for rental assistance.
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