Chamber supports homeless service workers, funding for shelters and sobering center

September 2023

On Thursday, September 7, the Portland Metro Chamber (PMC) testified before the Multnomah County Commission in support of several proposed allocations within the Joint Office of Homeless Services’ Supplemental Budget Modification.

Andrew Hoan, PMC President and CEO, representing more than 2,200 members, shed light on an issue that impacts not only the homeless population but our entire community: homelessness. Hoan highlighted the Chamber’s recent calls to action, urging support for key allocations within the Joint Office of Homeless Services’ Supplemental Budget Modification. These allocations are pivotal in addressing homelessness and its far-reaching consequences for our city.

1. Support for Nonprofit Homeless Service Providers

One of the Chamber’s most critical calls to action is the support for a $10 million allocation to bolster the workforce of nonprofit homeless service providers. The Chamber understands that we cannot hope to end the unsheltered homeless crisis on our streets without a dedicated and sustainable frontline workforce. These workers are the bridge between houseless residents and the shelter, services, and permanent housing they desperately need.

Earlier this year, the Chamber rallied a diverse coalition of service providers and businesses to send a clear message: frontline workers need living wages. The Chamber applauds the response to our call for action. However, it’s not just about wages; it’s also about improving contracting practices. The Joint Office of Homeless Services must transition from a reimbursement model to a direct grants approach, ensuring service providers can efficiently deliver their services without facing reimbursement delays.

Moreover, the county should align all service contracts under a unified living wage model based on the latest market analysis. This move would eliminate disparities and outdated wage calculations that hamper service providers with multiple contracts.

2. Support for Temporary Alternative Safe Shelter Sites (TASS)

The Chamber enthusiastically supports the proposed $4.7 million funding to acquire 140 pods and establish an RV/vehicle parking program for two Temporary Alternative Safe Shelter (TASS) sites. These sites are crucial to meet the state mandate of providing every person with a warm, safe place to sleep off the streets.

However, the Chamber sees this $4.7 million as just the beginning of the county’s involvement in the TASS program. PMC calls on county officials to allocate an additional $16 million for ongoing operational costs at two TASS sites. This commitment will further solidify the county’s role as a full partner in addressing homelessness.

3. Bridge Funding for Bybee Lakes Hope Center

The Chamber extends its unwavering support to bridge funding for the Bybee Lakes Hope Center. Bybee Lakes is a valued partner in Downtown Portland Clean & Safe’s Community Health Outreach Program, helping individuals transform their lives. They have built their center almost entirely through private funding. The time has come for the county to recognize the critical role they play in our shelter and services continuum. The city cannot afford to let this shelter and services offered by Bybee Lakes go offline.

4. Re-establishment of a Drop-off Sobering Center

Perhaps one of the most urgent priorities is funding of $15-20 million for the re-establishment of a drop-off sobering center. The closure of the Hooper detoxification sobering center in 2019 has had visible repercussions on our streets, particularly in the face of the fentanyl crisis.

Public intoxication remains an arrestable offense under state law, but effective enforcement is impossible without a fully staffed sobering center. The Chamber implores county officials to utilize the available funds to re-establish this critical facility, addressing a pressing issue that affects our entire city.

The Portland Metro Chamber understands the pivotal role businesses play in our community’s well-being. Homelessness is not just a humanitarian concern; it affects our economy, our neighborhoods, and our quality of life.

The Chamber calls on our county elected officials and community leaders to support these crucial allocations within the Joint Office of Homeless Services’ Supplemental Budget Modification. Together, we can work towards a more compassionate, prosperous, and vibrant Portland. It’s not just about helping the homeless; it’s about building a stronger and more resilient community for us all.