The COVID-19 pandemic and housing crisis in Oregon have created acute uncertainty, especially for those who are vulnerable to houselessness. Our dedicated housing entity, Caritas Housing, is taking steps to keep its residents comforted and sheltered.
As the housing arm of Catholic Charities of Oregon, Caritas Housing began working in 1998 to acquire, develop, rehabilitate, and manage permanent affordable housing for those in need of homes across the state. This now includes over 800 units of affordable housing across more than 20 properties statewide, ranging from three-unit town home developments to the 106-unit St. Francis Park Apartments. In the Portland Metro area, Catholic Charities of Oregon has properties from Hillsboro to Sandy and from Portland to Wilsonville. In Southern Oregon, we have 126 units of housing in Douglas and Jackson Counties.
These affordable homes provide stability for working families and individuals whose low incomes don’t cover market rents. Additionally, we have housing units dedicated to seniors, veterans, farmworkers, people who have experienced homelessness, and people with serious persistent mental illness—each with varying degrees of services to support residents’ needs.
Caritas Housing has a special focus on addressing the dire need for more supportive housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness. Earlier this year, Catholic Charities of Oregon launched the Healthy Housing Initiative with partners Providence Health & Services and the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, aiming to reduce chronic homelessness in our region and including a goal of developing at least 300 units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) in the Portland Metro area. Already under development, we have 253 new units with committed funding and hundreds of additional units in concept stages.
One of the most pressing challenges currently for residents in Caritas Housing is the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on households’ income and, subsequently, the inability to pay rent. While local and statewide moratoriums on evictions for non-payment are temporarily helping ensure residents aren’t at risk of becoming homeless because they can’t make their payments, many residents who are out of work have built up large balances of back-due rent they owe. We work closely with and provide flexibility to our residents so they can develop payment plans and other options to help avoid evictions whenever possible, and Catholic Charities’ Resident Service Coordinators and Save First Financial Wellness program have done an incredible job connecting individual residents with rent assistance.
But this hasn’t resolved everyone’s needs. To further alleviate the stress of making ends meet, Caritas Housing has applied to local and state agencies for portfolio-wide assistance. As of November 30, at least $130,000 has been committed by the state to alleviate these residents’ past-due balances, with further assistance still pending, ensuring dozens of residents retain their housing stability well into the future.