An extreme close up of a sleeping pod at Kenton Women's Village

Pilot Programs

A new 12-month pilot program by the Joint Office of Homeless Services and Catholic Charities of Oregon to help faith organizations host safe sleep spaces paired with service connections. We are not yet accepting clients for this program.

For information regarding partnership opportunities, please contact Kat Kelley

The Program

A safe place to rest can provide life-saving stability as people without shelter access services, go to school and jobs, and otherwise work on ending their homelessness. There are unique opportunities for diverse faith organizations to provide this stability and help respond to this need.

Under updates to city code approved in 2016 as part of our region’s expanded response to homelessness (33.920.470 Religious Institutions), properties owned or leased by faith organizations can host as many as three vehicles and/or six transitional housing units at a time.

With this in mind, in summer/fall 2018, the Joint Office of Homeless Services launched a 12-month pilot project to help interested faith organizations work with Catholic Charities of Oregon to host vehicles or sleeping pods that pair safe sleep with service connections.

The Need

Sleeping in a vehicle is a growing trend in Multnomah County. The 2017 Point in Time Count showed, for the first time, more people sleeping with shelter than without. But overall, 1,668 people were counted entirely unsheltered on the night of the count. Of those, 257 people (15.4%) reported sleeping in vehicles. That number increased faster than any other sleeping option for unsheltered neighbors since 2015 – and it comes at the same time as a smaller share of people were counted sleeping on sidewalks.

In 2016-17, our city organizations helped nearly 5,000 people leave the streets for permanent homes and an additional 6,000 people avoid homelessness in the first place. But the reality is housing prices and other factors are pushing our neighbors into homelessness faster than we can help them leave it. With that in mind, we continue to look into innovative ways to expand shelter options in our community.

How Will It Work?

This pilot will connect faith organizations with Catholic Charities of Oregon, a proven service provider that has housed hundreds of people through its housing placement and street outreach programs, and its successful Kenton Women’s Village program — where it plays a similar coordinating role.

Catholic Charities of Oregon’ role: Catholic Charities of Oregon will work one-on-one with interested faith organizations. It will help with logistics. For example, it will extend insurance protection to participating organizations; help them prepare their sites; manage guest outreach, screening and onboarding; facilitate trash pick-up and portable toilets (if needed); and provide general oversight.

Catholic Charities of Oregon will also guide host organizations as they engage the surrounding community about their participation in the project, answering questions and fielding ideas. Finally, and critically, it will provide transitional services (i.e. services that help people transition to permanent housing).

Faith organization’s role: Faith organizations must provide only a few things – 1) an open space, such as a parking lot, for three pods or vehicles 2) approval from its congregation/ members – active participation of at least a few members preferred 3) a liaison to work with Catholic Charities of Oregon.

The pilot project will start small, identifying three to five sites. The Joint Office of Homeless Services and Catholic Charities of Oregon are committed to engaging diverse faith partners, communities and geographical areas. A small, informal advisory group will advise the process.

What Impact Can It Have?

In similar programs in other cities (most notably Santa Barbara), this kind of program has demonstrated several benefits. We expect the following to happen here:

  • Provide additional safe and legal places for our unhoused neighbors to sleep
  • Help vulnerable neighbors keep their most important asset – their car (which may otherwise be threatened by parking tickets and other types of enforcement) – so they can continue to access services or easily transport themselves or their family members to school or work
  • Provide a stable and consistent place to come each night where people connect to services that help them transition to permanent housing
  • Create a space for community, relationships and a stronger resource network
  • Help neighbors and congregants better understand the day-to-day reality of life for people experiencing homelessness, beyond the myths, through engagement and relationships
  • Answers faith organizations’ question – “how can we help”?

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